Dec. 13, 2011
Senior guard JayDee Luster scored a career-high 18 points and Wyoming used a 10-4 run over the final three minutes to earn a hard-fought 58-48 win over UC Irvine on Tuesday night in the Arena-Auditorium. The Cowboys (10-1) battled the pesky Anteaters (2-7) for the majority of the contest, but prevailed in the end for their eighth-straight victory and their best start since 1987-88.
"We were frustrated offensively in the first half, but I thought our guys figured it out in the second half," UW head coach Larry Shyatt said. "JayDee [Luster] did a good job of being patient and waiting for his shots at the end of the shot clock."
In a defensive battle throughout the game, UC Irvine hung tough and pulled within four at 48-44 with 3:43 to go. Redshirt junior forward Leonard Washington hit a big three to start UW's final run, before senior guard Francisco Cruz nailed a jumper and Luster and Washington hit free throws. The spurt was aided by three turnovers from UCI and put UW up 13 with just 55 seconds left.
"I didn't want to go backwards tonight," Shyatt said. "It's easy after a big road win like we had the other night [at Colorado] and after finals for young people to take a breath and get satisfied. That usually shows up on the defensive end, but I didn't see that. We did get frustrated on the offensive end, but we had good effort on the defensive end throughout the game."
Luster was 6-of-12 from the field, including 3-of-5 beyond the arc, and 3-of-5 from the free throw line, while adding four assists and two steals. Redshirt junior guard Luke Martinez reached double figures for the third consecutive game with 13 points, on a 4-of-9 showing from the field, to go with four steals. Washington grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.
Wyoming struggled offensively all night, shooting 45 percent (21-of-46) from the field and 33 percent (7-of-21) from deep. The Cowboys earned 13 assists and 10 steals, but committed 14 turnovers and were outrebounded 36-27. The Anteaters shot 37 percent (20-of-53) and 30 percent (4-of-13), while committing 19 turnovers.
The game started as a defensive battle with both teams going a combined 2-of-8 from the field. The Cowboys slowly etched a nine-point advantage at 15-6 midway through the half thanks to four points each from Luster, senior center Adam Waddell and freshman forward Larry Nance Jr. during the run. The Anteaters clawed back to retake the lead at 18-17 with 1:31 left in the half, but UW ended the first stanza on a 5-1 run to go into halftime up 22-19.
Luster had six points in the first half, Martinez added five and Waddell had four. UW shot 37 percent (10-of-27) from the field to 33 percent (8-of-24) for UC Irvine. UW earned a 6-2 advantage in steals and committed six turnovers to 11 for UCI.
It was more of the same in the second half, as UW slowly extended its advantage to double digits before the Anteaters earned their way back into the game. Luster hit two treys early and Martinez added a three and a dunk to push the Cowboys up 37-27 midway through the half, but UC Irvine used a quick 7-0 spurt to get within three. The squads exchanged baskets over the next five minutes, until UCI once again closed within four at 48-44 with 3:43 to go. Wyoming asserted itself with a 9-0 run over the next three minutes to seal the win, as UCI didn't make another basket until there was 17 seconds left.
Luster posted 12 points in the second half, and Martinez added eight. Wyoming shot 57 percent (11-of-19) in the second half and 55 percent (5-of-9) from three.
Wyoming continues its season by hosting Sioux Falls on Friday at 7 p.m. in the Arena-Auditorium.