Junior forward Larry Nance Jr. scored 20 points and the University of Wyoming men’s basketball team was within four of Fresno State in the final minute, but the Bulldogs got an offensive putback and made two free throws to hold on for a 67-62 win on Wednesday night in the Save Mart Center. The loss broke a four-game winning streak for the Cowboys (13-7, 4-3 MW) in Mountain West play.
The Cowboys trailed the Bulldogs (9-13, 2-7 MW) by 11 points early in the second half, but a switch to a zone defense sparked a 16-3 run that put Wyoming up 44-42 with just over 12 minutes left in the game. Fresno State went back in front to hold a slim advantage down the stretch, but Nance hit two free throws with 55 seconds left to pull the Pokes within four at 63-59. The Bulldogs missed a jumper on their ensuing possession, but got the offensive putback to go up by six with 22 seconds to go. A three from senior guard Nathan Sobey with seven seconds left kept hope alive for the Pokes, but FSU made two free throws to ice the game.
“My biggest disappointment tonight was missing free throws,” UW head coach Larry Shyatt said. “You don’t think about them when you are making them, but that really shines in this particular game. You can’t give away eight to 10 points like that on the road. We made some bad decisions on offense in the first half and weren’t playing like we normally play. Loose balls were also disappointing. I thought they beat us to about five or six loose balls that really hurt us, particularly that last offensive rebound.”
Nance reached the 20-point plateau for the fifth time this season and has scored 16 or more points in Wyoming’s last five contests. He played all 40 minutes on Wednesday night and added five rebounds and a block. Junior guard Riley Grabau notched 14 points thanks in part to four threes, his most since the same amount against New Mexico on Jan. 8. He has had four or more treys in five games this season. Sophomore guard Josh Adams added nine points to break a string of six games in double-figure points.
The Cowboys snapped a string of three-straight games shooting over 50 percent from the field by hitting 48 percent (23-of-48) against Fresno State. Wyoming made 47 percent (7-of-15) beyond the arc, though, but only managed a season-low 53 percent (9-of-17) at the free throw line. The Bulldogs hit 53 percent (24-of-45) from the field for UW’s second opponent this season to shoot over 50 percent, while adding 29 percent (5-of-17) from deep and 67 percent (14-of-21) at the free throw line. The Bulldogs earned a 30-26 lead in rebounds, 10-8 in assists and 11-7 in second-chance points.
The Pokes opened with a dunk from Nance, but the Bulldogs retook the lead and held the advantage the rest of the first half. Wyoming hung tough with eight first-half points from Nance, as Fresno State built its largest lead of the first half at 26-19 with five minutes remaining. The Cowboys battled back to within four, but FSU hit a three to go into halftime up 33-26. Wyoming shot 42 percent (10-of-24) from the field and 40 percent (2-of-5) from deep in the first half, while allowing 58 percent (14-of-24) and 40 percent (4-of-10), respectively, to the Bulldogs. FSU earned a 15-13 advantage on the boards and 6-3 in assists.
Wyoming hosts Utah State on Saturday at 4 p.m. MT in the Arena-Auditorium.