Second Half Turnovers Doom Cowboys in Loss at UNLV, 81-75

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LAS VEGAS, (Dec. 31, 2016) – The Cowboys committed 12 second half turnovers in an 81-75 loss to UNLV on Saturday afternoon in the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, Nev. The Cowboys erased an 11-point deficit to tie the contest in the second half, but UW finished the game 5-of-26 from behind the arc for 19 percent. UW moves to 11-4 on the year and 1-1 in MW play. UNLV improves to 8-7 overall and 1-1 in the MW.

“We had opportunities and defended well, but just turned the ball over too much,” UW head coach Allen Edwards said. “It is a process and I was proud of the effort tonight, just came up short. We we’re just careless with the basketball and that led to empty possessions late.”

The Cowboys were led in scoring by sophomore guard Justin James with 17 points. He was effective from the free throw line going 9-of-11.  Junior forward Hayden Dalton recorded 16 points in his seven-straight game in double figures. He also added a team-high nine rebounds for the Pokes. Juniors Alexander Aka Gorski and Alan Herndon added 12 points each. Guard Jeremy Lieberman scored a season-high nine points. Senior guard Jason McManamen’s 37-game streak recording at least one three pointer was snapped.

“Jeremy’s (Lieberman) energy was contagious,” Edwards said. “I felt what he did today helped us and allowed for him to play more minutes tonight. The free throws and three ball didn’t fall tonight and we have to go back to the drawing board facing a tough Fresno State team next week.”

The Pokes shot 45 percent from the field on the night going 27-of-60. The Pokes shot 58 percent from the field in the second half. UNLV shot 39 percent (25-of-64) from the field and 32 percent (7-of-22 from behind the arc. The Runnin’ Rebels held the advantage on the boards 44-40.

Both offenses started slow, but the Pokes gained the early lead thanks to five points from sophomore forward Jordan Naughton. The Cowboys took an 8-6 lead heading into the first media timeout four minutes into the game on a fast break triple from Alexander Aka Gorski.

Nine-straight points from Dalton countered a run by the Runnin’ Rebels that saw them hit 6-of-7 field that gave UNLV a 24-15 lead with 11:05 left in the opening stanza. UNLV hit three-straight three pointers during the run.

The Pokes trailed by as much as 11 points at 26-15 with 9:10 left in the half, but cut the lead to 27-23 on a pair of free throws from Herndon. He also added a layup during the run to keep the Pokes within striking distance of the Runnin’ Rebels. 

An 8-2 run by the Pokes tied the contest at 29-29 with under five minutes remaining in the frame. The Pokes did most of the damage from the free throw line with the Cowboys hitting six-straight free throws with James hitting four-straight.

An 8-2 run by UNLV gave them a 37-31 lead in the closing minutes of the half. The Pokes added five-straight points with a triple by Lieberman and layup by Aka Gorski. But the Runnin’ Rebels scored five-straight themselves in the final minute to take a 42-36 lead into the break.

The Pokes opened the half slow, but used a 6-0 run to cut the deficit to three points at 47-44 with 15:40 remaining in the contest. The Pokes cut the lead to two at 53-51 on a dunk by Herndon from a nice pass from Dalton.

Wyoming would cut the lead to two once again at 55-53, but a 4-0 run by UNLV increased their advantage to six points at 59-53. The Cowboys tied the contest at 59-59 with under eight minutes to play. Herndon started the play with a swat on the defensive end that end with an and-one play by James.

A three pointer by Kris Clyburn gave UNLV momentum that sparked a 5-0 run to take a 66-61 lead with under six minutes remaining. The Cowboys committed costly turnovers over the course of the following minutes, as UNLV built a 70-65 lead with 3:15 left in the half.

The Rebels extended the lead to 73-65 at the free throw line, but Dalton kept the Cowboys in it with a three pointer to make it a 73-68 game with 59 seconds left. The Pokes used layups late by McManamen and James, but clutch free throws sealed the game for UNLV.

Guard Jovan Mooring led UNLV with 17 points, as he was 5-of-9 from the field. Forward Christian Jones added 15 points and 10 rebounds.

The Cowboys return to action Wednesday heading to defending MW Tournament Champion Fresno State.