LARAMIE, Wyo. -
Senior forward Larry Nance Jr.'s 21 points paced four Cowboys in double figures to help the University of Wyoming men's basketball team top Montana State, 70-61, on Sunday afternoon in the Arena-Auditorium. The back-and-forth contest was tied, 53-53, with six minutes left, but the Cowboys (9-2) held the Bobcats to just one field goal the rest of the game and crafted a 17-8 run to improve to 15-1 under head coach Larry Shyatt at home in December.
"I have a lot of respect for the Montana State team," Shyatt said "They played hard, played tenacious at both ends of the court and they gave us problems. For about 34 minutes, it was toe to toe. I credit our guys for holding them to one basket the last six minutes. We made our free throws - 78 percent -- it's not pretty but it wins games."
Senior guard Riley Grabau provided the game's 10th lead change when he converted a three-point play with the contest tied at 53-53 and Nance, along with four other Cowboys, added free throws down the stretch to build a 66-57 Wyoming lead with two minutes left. It was the Poke defense that kept the advantage, though, as the Cowboys limited the Bobcats (3-6) to just one field goal and eight points over the last six minutes. That was after MSU had shot 5-of-8 from deep in the first half.
"They [Montana State] were 5-for-8 from three in the first half," Shyatt said. "They came back the second half and were 1 for 10, and I thought many of those were hurried. I thought we did a much better job of protecting the [three-point] line. It did open them up to get some drives, but with our size inside I thought those last five minutes when maybe fatigue was a factor we were able to get six or seven rebounds in a row when we needed to."
Nance's third 20-point effort this season came on 7-of-13 from the field and 7-of-7 at the free throw line, while adding seven rebounds and three assists. Fellow senior forward Derek Cooke Jr. tied a career-best with 15 points to go with five rebounds and three blocks. The two helped Wyoming outscore Montana State, 32-20, in points in the paint, the Cowboys' seventh game this season with more than 30. Grabau finished with 14 points, including two treys, while junior guard Josh Adams had 10 points and a game-high five assists. Four Pokes reached double-figure points for the third time this season.
The Cowboys shot 57 percent (21-of-37) from the field and have topped 50 percent in each of their nine wins this season, but Grabau's two threes were Wyoming's only makes in seven attempts. The Pokes made up for that with 77 percent (26-of-34) at the free throw line, season highs in attempts and makes. The Bobcats hung around thanks to a 27-26 advantage in rebounds, including 11-6 in offensive boards, but MSU committed 28 fouls to 15 for UW. The Bobcats shot 44 percent (23-of-52) from the field and 33 percent (6-of-18) beyond the arc for the game, but just 30 and 10 percent, respectively, in the second half.
Montana State tied the contest, 37-37, at halftime and hung around well into the second half thanks to the three ball. The Bobcats hit five in the first half and led by as many as five points midway through the period, but managed just one trey in 10 attempts after the break. The game's 10 lead changes and nine ties were both season highs for Wyoming.
The Cowboys are off for finals week, before returning to the Arena-Auditorium to host Southern on Saturday at 2 p.m. MT.