Sophomore guard Justin James scored the Cowboys’ final five points in the final 90 seconds to lift Wyoming (14-7, 4-4 MW) past UNLV (10-11, 3-5 MW) 66-65 on Wednesday evening in the Arena-Auditorium. Junior forward Hayden Dalton recorded his eighth double-double of the season with 15 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Pokes.
“At the end of the day, a win is a win, but I was a little displeased in how we came out in the second half,” UW head coach Allen Edwards said. “We did not rebound the basketball well in the second half. We had an opportunity to take a step forward as a program tonight, particularly the way we played in the first half. But we didn’t come out with that same energy in the second half, and we missed an opportunity to take that step forward.”
The Runnin’s Rebels erased 18-point halftime deficit to take a 64-61 lead on the Pokes with 1:45 remaining. But James added a three-point play and jumper as part of his 14 points on the night to make it a 66-64 game with a minute remaining. UNLV’s Jovon Mooring put up a three pointer with two seconds remaining, but it rimmed out giving UW the win.
“One of the things that Justin (James) has is he is a talented young man,” Edwards said. “He is one of the guys who can truly go get his shot, and I don’t know if there is a defender who can guard him one on one if he (Justin) understands how to play within our system.”
The Cowboys shot 44 percent (26-of-59) from the field, while holding UNLV to 38 percent (24-of-63). It was a tale of two half though, as UW held the Runnin’ Rebels to 28 percent from the field in the opening half, but UNLV responded by shooting 48 percent from the field in the second stanza.
“To UNLV’s credit, I thought they came out in the second half with a lot of energy and effort,” Edwards said.
The game featured the top two teams in the Mountain West in rebounding, but the Cowboys, who lead the league were out rebounded 47-33 on the night. The Pokes did their damage in the transition game scoring 14 points off of turnovers.
Junior Louis Adams added 15 points for UW including scoring the first eight points of the night for UW. Junior guard Jeremy Lieberman dished out four assists to lead both teams. Over the last four games, Lieberman has an assist to turnover ratio of 5.0.
After the Rebels opened the contest scoring four-straight points, Adams responded with eight points of his own to give UW an 8-6 lead three minutes into the contest. The eight points by Adams combined for a 13-0 run by the Pokes that lasted six minutes to give UW a 18-6 lead eight minutes into the opening frame.
The Pokes maintained the lead with solid defense halfway midway through the half to make it 24-13. The Pokes held UNLV to 29 percent from the field to that point and scored eight points off five Runnin’ Rebel turnovers.
James would increase that lead to 13 points at 30-17 at the 4:11 mark of the frame with a free throw. The Cowboys built that lead with under 90 seconds remaining in the half. As UW ended the frame with a 41-23 lead after shooting 55 percent from the field and holding UNLV to 28 percent.
The Runnin’ Rebels opened the half on an 8-3 run to cut the UW lead to 44-31 two minutes into the frame. UNLV would hold the Cowboys scoreless for over three minutes cutting the UW lead to six points at 47-41.
Adams halted the run with a triple and added a free throw seconds later to build back a double-digit lead for UW. The Runnin’ Rebels used the offensive glass to cut the Pokes’ lead to six points followed by a three-point play by Mooring to make it a 55-52 game at the 8:35 mark of the second half.
The Runnin’ Rebels tied the game at 59-59 on a shoot clock beating triple from Mooring at the 4:33 mark of the second half. They would take their first lead since the opening minutes on a free throw from Tyrell Green to make it 60-59.
After Christian Jones gave UNLV a three- point lead at 64-61 with a 1:45 remaining, James went to work giving UW the 66-64 lead. Mooring went 1-of-2 from the line to make it a one point game with 39 seconds remaining. James would missed a jumper with 11 seconds remaining, but UNLV failed to get the lead, as UW took the game 66-65.
Mooring led the Runnin’ Rebels in scoring with 15 points, as he also added five rebounds. Jones added a double-double with 14 points and a game-high 12 rebounds.
The Cowboys host Boise State on Saturday afternoon for a 4 p.m. start on ROOT Sports.