Sophomore Justin James and junior guard Louis Adams combined for 37 points off the Cowboy bench to lift Wyoming past Front Range foe Denver, 82-70 on Wednesday evening in the Arena-Auditorium. The Pokes move to 3-0 on the season in the Arena-Auditorium and 4-2 overall. The Pioneers fall to 2-4 on the season.
“I would like to compliment coach Billups and the job that he has done there,” UW head coach Allen Edwards said. “I thought we played a tremendous first half. Denver is a group of fighters and they came out and competed in the second half. The two things we talked about this week is taking care of the basketball and shooting free throws and we did both of those things tonight.”
James poured in a game-high 21 points for back-to-back games with 20 or more points for the sophomore. He has also scored in double-figures in five-straight games. Adams scored a career-high 16 points for UW going 6-of-9 from the field and 4-of-5 from the free throw line.
“Justin (James) and Louis (Adams) did a great job of getting to the rim and the free throw line,” Edwards said. “I thought we got cold in the second half, but at the end of the day I think we have a tremendous balance on this team.”
Junior forward Alan Herndon added 12 points and seven rebounds. He tied a career-high with three triples and also tied a career-best with three blocks. Senior guard Jason McManamen scored 13 points. He moved to eighth in career three pointers with three on the night, as he now has 137 in his career passing Bradley Mann (136 from 1997-00). Junior forward Hayden Dalton added a game-high eight rebounds.
The Pokes and the Pioneers both shot 43 percent (26-of-61) from the field on the night. The Pokes did more damage from the free throw line shooting a season-best 84 percent (21-of-25). The Cowboys also scored 32 points in the paint and added 17 points off of turnovers.
Edwards talked about returning to the Arena-Auditorium and how that made a difference tonight. “That is what you get when you practice on that floor every day. As we go further, we struggled shooting the basketball, but the more opportunities we get I feel the rim will get bigger and we will make some more shots.”
Herndon got off to a fast start scoring seven of the first 10 points for the Cowboys. He did his damage from behind the three-point line with a pair of threes. He also added a free-throw for a four-point play to help build a 10-4 early lead for the Pokes.
The Pokes extended their lead to 23-10 halfway through the opening half. The run was sparked by James, as he scored five points with Dalton adding four points. The Pokes held Denver without a field goal for nearly four minutes during the stretch.
The Pokes held Denver scoreless for over three minutes to build a 39-22 lead with under five minutes in the half. Highlights of the Pokes’ run including Herndon’s third triple of the game, which tied his career high. The Cowboys closed out the half with a 46-30 lead. The Pokes played 11 players in the opening half with eight players scoring at least a point.
The Cowboys bench scored 22 points in the opening frame. The assertive effort on the defensive end of the floor helped the Pokes score 14 off of turnovers in the opening frame.
The Pokes got off to a sluggish start to open the second half, as the Pioneers opened the frame on a 9-5 run that saw the Pokes go three minutes without a point. The streak was shut down by a three pointer by McManamen.
The Pioneers chipped into the Cowboy lead halfway through the second half. DU used an 8-2 run to make it 59-48 with 11:05 remaining in the frame. Denver cut the lead to single digits cutting the Pokes lead to as little as nine at 65-56 with under eight minutes remaining.
The final three minutes saw Denver dig into UW’s lead trimming it to eight points at 71-63. But Herndon protected the rim for the Pokes with two blocks and UW knocked down six-straight free throws to take the 82-70 win.
The Cowboys host Northern Iowa in the Mountain West/Missouri Valley Conference Challenge on Saturday. The game set for a 1 p.m. tip and is a rematch of the NCAA Tournament matchup from 2015.