LAS VEGAS -
For the first time since 2002, the Pokes are going dancing.
Senior forward Larry Nance Jr. notched a game-high 14 points and junior guard Josh Adams added 10 to propel the University of Wyoming men's basketball team to a 45-43 upset of No. 25 San Diego State in the Mountain West Championships' final on Saturday to earn the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Championships. Adams nailed the go-ahead three pointer with a minute left in the Thomas & Mack Center to give the Cowboys (25-9) their first MW tournament title and third overall MW championship. Adams and Nance were named to the All-Tournament team, while Adams claimed MVP honors as well.
"I love the way these guys play," UW head coach Larry Shyatt said. "I have always trusted them. I'm so happy for our ball club, for our university, and most of all for these five seniors who came and took a chance on our staff, they took a chance on the University of Wyoming at a time that was not easy. They really came through, so I'm happy for them and equally proud of all of them and all of the team."
The fourth-seeded Cowboys led by as many as 12 points early in the first half, before the second-seeded Aztecs (26-8) held Wyoming without a basket for 12 minutes to go in front by five early in the second half. The two would trade the lead several times down the stretch with SDSU pulling in front 41-40 with 1:36 remaining. That's when Adams made a shot that will live in Wyoming infamy, a fade-away three from the corner that didn't hit anything but net to put the Pokes in front 43-41. SDSU would miss its next two shot attempts, before senior forward Derek Cooke Jr., a career 46-percent free-throw shooter, calmly sank two from the charity stripe with seven seconds left to ice the game.
Adams became the first Cowboy to earn MVP of a conference tournament since Eric Leckner in 1988, while he and Nance are the first Wyoming players to claim all-tournament accolades since Brandon Ewing in 2008-09. Adams averaged 18.7 points, 4.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists in the tournament compared to 15.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists for Nance. Against the Aztecs, Nance's 14 points came on 6-of-14 from the field and 2-of-5 from deep, as he added six rebounds, three assists and two blocks. His six rebounds moved him into third in MW history with 800 in his career. Adams shot 2-of-5 beyond the arc as well and hauled in three boards. Senior guard Riley Grabau had two triples to move into a second-place tie in Cowboy history with 169 threes.
Playing in just its second MW title game ever, Wyoming shot 36 percent (15-of-42) from the field, 40 percent (8-of-20) beyond the arc and 78 percent (7-of-9) at the free-throw line, while holding San Diego State to 33 percent (15-of-46) and 24 percent (4-of-17) from deep. The Cowboys were outrebounded 30-26 and outscored 18-6 in the paint, but committed just 10 fouls.
The Pokes now wait to find out their seed and opponent during Sunday's NCAA Championships Selection Show at 4 p.m. MT on CBS.