Dec. 4, 2012
Normal, Ill. -
After trailing by as many as 19 points early in the second half, the University of Wyoming men's basketball team closed the game with a 36-7 run to earn a statement 81-67 win over Illinois State on Tuesday night in Redbird Arena. Sophomore forward Larry Nance Jr. paced five Cowboys in double figures with a career-high 19 points, as the Cowboys ran their record to a perfect 9-0 on the season.
Wyoming was down 50-31 just three minutes into the second half, but cranked down on the defensive end to craft runs of 14-0 and 11-0. The Pokes held the Redbirds to just one field goal and seven points over the final 12 minutes, thanks in part to a UW single-game record nine steals from senior guard Luke Martinez.
"[During the second half], my thoughts were we are being part of something special here," Wyoming head coach Larry Shyatt said. "We really were on the cusp of losing it, but the energy and emotion in our huddle was amazing. To only have four turnovers in the second half was amazing and to make 22 out of 24 free throws. I'm so proud to be one of their coaches. Our coaching staff did a great job of keeping their emotions in check as well."
It was a tale of two halves for the Cowboys. The Redbirds nailed six consecutive threes during a 20-3 run late in the first half and went into halftime with a 43-29 lead, but Wyoming outscored ISU 52-24 in the second frame. UW forced 14 turnovers and collected nine steals in the second half.
"When we put the press on we really got some good things," Shyatt said. "So many things happened in the second half, it's almost like you're a mad scientist and you don't want to touch it when you're on a run like that."
Nance added six rebounds and two steals to his 19 points, while Martinez had 17 points, five rebounds and three assists in addition to his record-setting nine steals. The previous record was seven by three Cowboys. Freshman Josh Adams made his first career start and posted a career-high 15 points and four assists, as senior forward Leonard Washington added the same point total and seven rebounds. Senior guard Derrious Gilmore posted 13 points and five assists. Wyoming's starters scored 79 of its 81 points.
"When Larry [Nance Jr.] can score like he did on the inside and out, he gives us another dimension," Shyatt said. "If he can add a little left hand down the road, he is going to be scary good."
Wyoming shot 54 percent (27-of-50) from the field, including 64 percent (16-of-25) in the second half, and a season-high 92 percent (22-of-24) at the free throw line. ISU shot 50 percent (25-of-50) and 44 percent (11-of-25), while outrebounded the Pokes 28-26. UW forced ISU into 20 turnovers to 14 for itself and earned a 12-5 advantage in steals.
The Pokes and Redbirds exchanged the lead six times and were tied four times through the first 12 minutes to open the game. A Nance dunk sandwiched two buckets from Adams to start the scoring for Wyoming. A layup from sophomore forward Derek Cooke Jr. at the 14:27 mark gave the Cowboys a two-point lead, but ISU went back in front until Nance hit a jumper with 8:20 to go to give UW a 19-18 advantage.
That's when the Redbirds caught fire. From the 6:46 mark to 3:46, Illinois State hit six straight threes to quickly rack up a 20-3 run. Martinez broke the spurt with a three and Washington flushed a dunk down the stretch, but ISU still took a 43-29 lead into halftime.
The Redbirds shot an impressive 53 percent from three-point range (8-of-15) and the floor (17-of-32) in the first half to 44 percent (11-of-25) from the floor and 22 percent (2-of-9) from deep for the Cowboys. ISU earned an 18-13 advantage in rebounds. Adams led Wyoming with eight points, while Nance had seven and Washington added six.
Illinois State quickly extended the lead to 19 at 50-31 just three minutes into the second half, but the Cowboys keep fighting. Wyoming would cut the advantage to 12 several times over the next several minutes, before Adams sparked a 14-0 run at the 12:07 mark with a jumper. Nance and Washington added back-to-back dunks and Martinez and Gilmore nailed home back-to-back treys, as UW pulled within 60-59 with 8:31 left.
The Pokes would tie the contest at 63-63 a few minutes later and followed with another 11-0 run to go up 74-66 with 2:03 left. All five starters added during the spurt, as Washington, Nance and Gilmore added points down the stretch to seal the come-from-behind victory.
Wyoming continues its season by hosting Oklahoma Panhandle State at 2 p.m. on Saturday in the Arena-Auditorium. Fans can purchase tickets by calling the Wyoming Athletics Ticket Office at 877-WYO-FAN1 (877-996-3261) or going online at GoWYO.com.