The 12th-seeded University of Wyoming men's basketball team was within nine points of fifth-seeded Northern Iowa with seven minutes remaining, but the Panthers (31-3) closed the game on a 14-6 run to earn a 71-54 win over the Cowboys (25-10) in the NCAA Championships' Second Round on Friday in KeyArena. Senior forward Larry Nance Jr. paced the Pokes with 16 points, while senior guard Charles Hankerson Jr. added 15.
"The last one's always hard unless the streamers are coming down," UW head coach Larry Shyatt said. "First thing out of my mouth is definitely going to be compliments to Northern Iowa. They're terrific. I always thought if we could keep these guys in the low 60s we would have a chance, but to do that, they can't knock those shots in that they did. I am so proud, I told these guys that they set so many records and ones that count."
After trailing by double digits early in the second half, the Pokes clawed back to within single digits thanks to Nance. He scored just one point in the first half but with the Pokes down 21 at 50-29, he drained a three, jammed home a dunk and added another triple. He followed with an assist on another three from senior guard Riley Grabau, while Hankerson added a triple of his own to pull Wyoming within 50-43 with just over 10 minutes left. The two squads traded buckets, before a Nance jumper made it 57-48 UNI with 6:52 remaining. That would be as close as the Cowboys could get, though.
Nance's 25th game in double figures this season came on 6-of-11 from the field and 2-of-3 beyond the arc, while he added seven rebounds, two assists and two blocks. Hankerson's 15 points were courtesy of a career-high five three pointers. Grabau had two threes against the Panthers to move to second in Cowboy history with 171, while junior guard Josh Adams added six assists.
Wyoming shot 46 percent (21-of-46) from the field and 41 percent (9-of-22) from deep, but UNI managed 46 percent (23-of-50) and 50 percent (9-of-18), respectively. UW's nine made threes tied a season high. The Panthers outrebounded the Pokes, 29-22, and committed just seven turnovers to 12 for Wyoming. The Cowboys notched 14 assists on 21 made baskets, but were outscored 41-2 in bench points.
The game was the last for a group of five Wyoming seniors: Nance, Hankerson, Grabau, Derek Cooke Jr. and Jack Bentz. The memorable class combined to finish in UW's career records for numerous categories, while collecting 20-or-more wins in three of the last four seasons.