Big First Half Leads Cowboys Past Aggies, 95-87

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The Cowboys (12-5 overall, 2-2 MW) hit 12 three pointers in the first half on their way to a 95-87 win over Utah State (8-8 overall, 2-3 MW) on Wednesday evening in the Arena-Auditorium. The Pokes move to 10-0 inside the friendly confines of the Arena-Auditorium, as the 12 three pointers in the first frame was the most in a single half since UW hit 14 against Hawai’i Pacific on Nov. 26, 1999.

“Definitely a good win for us,” UW head coach Allen Edwards said.  “It was a great feeling to get back home, and it was evident in the first half the way we shot the basketball that the rims here were a lot more friendly than on the road.  This was a good win as it came against a really good team (Utah State) that had been playing good basketball.  We’re excited to come away with this victory.”

“Having the little break we had last weekend gave us an opportunity to assess some things about our program,” Edwards said.  “I’ve told our guys that when we space the floor and move the basketball, we’re a pretty hard team to defend, especially when we have Alan Herndon and H.D. (Hayden Dalton) in the game at the 5 and the 4 because we have skill guys who can make shots and also put the ball on the floor.  In our last couple of games on the road, while we were getting some good shots, I didn’t think our spacing and our ball movement was as crisp as it was in the first half tonight.”

The Cowboys had five players score in double figures on the night marking the third time this season UW has accomplished the feat. Junior forward Hayden Dalton led the way with 19 points for his 13th game in double-figures this season. Fellow junior guard Alexander Aka Gorski added 18 points for UW, as he hit a career-high six three pointers.

 Junior forward Alan Herndon recorded his first double-double of the season and the second of his career with 15 points and 10 rebounds. He also tied a career-high with four blocks. Redshirt freshman Cody Kelley tied a career best with 10 points in his first career start. He also dished out a career-high six assists. Senior guard Jason McManamen rounded out the Pokes in double-figures adding 11 points.

“One of the things I really like about Cody (Kelley) is he is a tough kid who always competes hard,” Edwards said.  “Whether it’s as a starter or coming off the bench, he’s a guy who can play 20 minutes in this program any given night.  I thought he took advantage of an opportunity tonight and played well.”

UW shot 50 percent from the field going 30-of-60. The Pokes shot 46 percent from behind the arc hitting 13-of-28 attempts. The Cowboys were also solid from the line hitting 76 percent of their attempts. Utah State outshot the Pokes on the night shooting 51 percent. It was the highest field goal percentage by an opponent this season.

UW grabbed 36 boards to the Aggies 35 on the night. The Cowboys record five total blocks on the night and dished out 19 assists, as 17 came in the opening frame.

The Pokes raced out to a 10-4 lead thanks to a pair of triples from Herndon and Aka Gorski. The Cowboys opened the contest 4-of-4 from the field. The Pokes built the lead to 15-8 on another triple from Aka Gorski on a behind the back pass from Kelley, as he had three assists in the opening minutes.

An 8-3 run by the Aggies put them within two points of the Cowboys at 13:59 of the half off a three pointer from Jalen Moore. A 6-0 run by the Aggies their only lead of the contest 22-21 at the 12:17 mark of the frame.

A triple by Dalton and a tough off balance layup by junior guard Louis Adams gave the Pokes a 26-22 lead. The three ball was the primary play for four-straight plays for both squads with three coming from UW, as the Pokes moved their lead to 35-27 halfway through the opening frame.

The hot shooting continued for the Pokes, as UW was shooting 59 percent from the field through the 3:46 mark of the half to take a 46-34 lead. Herndon closed out the hot shooting in the first half with a pair of three, as UW went into the locker room leading 57-39. The Pokes shot 67 percent from behind the arc in the first half going 12-of-18. 

The Cowboys opened the second half on a mission as well building their lead to as high as 22 points four minutes into the frame. The Pokes did it from the free throw line with seven points from the charity stripe.

A 10-0 run by Utah State cut the Cowboys lead to 72-60 with 12:19 remaining in the frame. The Pokes regained momentum back thanks to layups from Adams and sophomore forward Jordan Naughton. The Aggies attempted to cut into the Pokes, but UW never lead by less than 10 points until the 1:33 mark of the half when Merrill hit a layup to make it 89-81.

Merrill added a triple with 51 seconds left to make it a seven point UW lead at 92-85. A layup by the Aggies cut the lead to six points at 93-87 with 21 seconds remaining, but that was as close as Utah State would come as McManamen hit a pair of free throws to give UW the 95-87 win.

Utah State’s Jalen Moore led all scorers with 20 points on the night. Freshman Koby McEwen added 15 points with fellow freshman Sam Merrill adding 14 points. 

The Cowboys return to action on Saturday hosting Nevada for a 4 p.m. start in the Arena-Auditorium.