The Cowboys nearly erased a 10 point deficit in the final 10 minutes of the contest, but a late three pointer from the Colorado State’s Prentiss Nixon gave the Rams (18-9, 10-4) the 78-73 win over Wyoming (16-11, 6-8 MW) on Tuesday evening in the Arena-Auditorium. Sophomore guard Justin James led UW with a game-high 23 points for his seventh game with 20 or more points this season.
“I thought the second half our players did a better job of executing the game plan,” UW head coach Allen Edwards said. “In the first half, our guys looked like they were waiting for something good to happen and they didn’t have the energy I expect from them. I’ve continued to tell them throughout this season that they can’t worry so much about what is happening on the offensive end of the court. We have to go out and play hard from the start of the game, and if we do that we’ll be fine.”
Junior guard Louis Adams cut the Colorado State lead to one point at 70-69 with 1:03 remaining with a free throw. Nixon responded with his three pointer with 34 seconds remaining to build the CSU lead to four points. The Cowboys cut the CSU advantage to as little as two points at 73-71, but Colorado State hit free throws late to earn their seventh win in their last eight games.
James hit a career-high nine field goals in the game, as the Cowboys leading scorer was 9-of-16 from the field. He also added eight rebounds on the night. Junior forward Alan Herndon added his third double-double of the season with 15 points and tied a career-high with 12 rebounds. He also recorded three blocks, as he has 95 in his career tying Fennis Dembo for 10th in career blocks at UW. Adams added 12 points all of which came from the free throw line. Senior guard Jason McManamen added 11 points for UW, including three triples, as he has 187 in his career and needs seven more to pass Brandon Ewing (193) for first all-time at Wyoming.
“I thought Justin (James) did some great things offensively, but I also thought he had a solid game on the defensive end and that is why he played more minutes tonight,” Edwards said. “He is a kid who has a good future if he continues to work hard and understand what it is going to take to become the player he is capable of becoming. Alan (Herndon) made some big shots. The drive for the and-one down the stretch was a big play.”
Wyoming was held to 36 percent from the field and 31 percent from behind the arc. UW opened the contest going 6-of-9 from the three point line. The Rams shot 42 percent from the field, as CSU became the only opponent to shoot at least 50 percent in the opening half in the Arena-Auditorium this season.
The Rams outrebounded the Cowboys 45-42 on the night. UW had eight turnovers, as Wyoming has recorded under 10 turnovers in back-to-back games for the first time this season.
The Rams got out to a 5-0 lead to open the game, but McManamen halted the streak with a three pointer at the 17:36 mark of the half. The Rams would build their lead back this time to six points at 12-6 on a layup by Nico Carvacho at the 15 minute mark of the frame.
A pair of triples by James tied the contest at 14-14 two minutes later, as he scored 13 straight points and later tied the contest at 19-19, but two triples by Braden Koelliker gave CSU a 25-19 lead halfway through the frame.
The Pokes used an 9-2 run to take their first lead of the game at 28-27 at the 6:42 mark of the half on a three point play from redshirt freshman forward Andrew Moemeka. The Rams answered with a quick 10-2 run to take at 37-30 lead.
The final four minutes saw the offense slow down, as the Rams took a 41-33 lead into the break. Colorado State shot 50 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes. The Pokes hit six of their first nine three point attempts, but closed the half missing eight straight.
The Pokes opened the first half on a 7-2 run to make it a 43-40 game in the opening two minutes of the second half. Junior guard Jeremy Lieberman led the run with four-straight points to open the stanza. The Rams used a 7-0 run to build their lead to nine points at 54-45 nearly eight minutes into the half. During that run the Cowboys went scoreless for over four minutes.
The Cowboys would cut the deficit to six points at 64-58 with 7:35 remaining on a layup from James. The Pokes would then cut the lead to two points at 67-65 on a 7-0 run that saw CSU go scoreless for over two minutes.
After the Nixon three pointer, the Rams closed the game hitting five free throws to take the first Border war matchup of the season 78-73 and snap a UW five game winning streak against the Rams.
Senior forward Emmanuel Omogbo had 19 points and 16 rebounds for Colorado State. Guard Gian Clavell added 20 points on the night, but was held to 5-of-17 from the field. Nixon added 16 points going 3-of-5 from behind the arc.
The Cowboys return to action on Saturday heading to Boise State for a 4 p.m. start on ROOT SPORTS.