by staff–31 Jan ’19
After keeping one of the nation’s top three point shooting teams in check in the first half, Fresno State hit nine triples in the second half to down the Wyoming Cowboys 75-62 on Wednesday evening in the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie. Wyoming (5-16, 1-7 MW) and the Bulldogs (15-5, 6-2) were neck and neck until 14-0 run with under 10 minutes remaining by Fresno State was the difference. The contest featured 11 lead changes, the most in a conference contest for Wyoming this season.
“I think Fresno State is the second best team in our league behind Nevada, Our message to the team before the game was 40 minutes — physically and mentally engaged,” UW head coach Allen Edwards said. “I thought we got to about 30 or 32 minutes and then we started to get out of character, our pop wasn’t the same and we didn’t defend the three-point line in the second half as well as we did in the first half. We also turned the basketball over and got a little antsy on offense down the stretch.”
Wyoming held two of the MW’s premier scorers in Deshon Taylor and Braxton Huggins, who combine for 35 points per game to 12 points combined on the evening.
“I thought we did a great job on their two big scorers, (Braxton) Huggins and (Deshon) Taylor, but they had other guys step up and that is why I think they are the second best team in our league,” Edwards said. “(New) Williams hits 6 of 8 threes, and (Noah) Blackwell, who is coming off a hamstring injury, is one of the best point guards in our league in terms of understanding how to run a basketball team. Then you add in (Nate) Grimes and (Sam) Bittner and they have a lot of weapons at the end of the day, and they all have the ability to shoot the basketball. The other thing I love about the way they play is they defend. Kudos to Coach Justin (Hutson) for what he’s been able to do taking over that program.”
Senior Justin James stuffed the stat sheet on the night with 21 points and 12 rebounds for his sixth double-double this season. He also added six assists tying for his second most this season. James added two blocks and three steals.
Senior Jordan Naughton added 10 points for his third game in double figures this season. He was a perfect 4-of-4 from the field, which was a season high. Junior A.J. Banks added seven points, seven rebounds and three assists.
“I keep telling the young guys it doesn’t happen overnight,” Edwards said. “I try to give them examples of guys who’ve played in this league and who’ve played at the University of Wyoming, who their freshman year they were just solid. Then their second year they improved, and then by their junior and senior years they had some seasoning and became really good players. But it’s the microwave era, and it’s hard for them to not have it happen for them right away.”
Wyoming shot 48 percent from the field going 22-of-46. Fresno State countered at 25-of-53 for 47 percent. The Bulldogs were 12-of-25 from the three point line for 48 percent and were 9-of-14 in the second half. UW held the advantage on the glass 31-28 for the first upper hand on the boards in conference play.
Banks and James got the Pokes out to an early 6-2 lead in the opening 90 seconds with the duo each draining a three pointer. The Pokes would go scoreless for over three minutes allowing the Bulldogs to take a 7-6 advantage until a layup from Naughton gave Wyoming an 8-7 lead with 14:47 remaining in the opening half.
The teams would then engage in a back-and-forth affair until Fresno State took an 18-13 lead with about nine minutes remaining using their first three pointer of the game in the process. Naughton would hit back-to-back baskets to make it a two point game at 21-19 with just over seven minutes left.
The Pokes would cut the Fresno State lead to one-point at 27-26 on steal from Banks turned into a layup from James with 3:27 remaining in the half. Fresno State would build the lead to five points (33-27) with under a minutes remaining on a triple from Noah Blackwell. But a pair of free throws from Trevon “TJ” Taylor and a triple from James made it a 33-33 game at the break.
Wyoming used a dunk from Banks and free throws from Trace Young to build a 37-33 lead early in the second frame. But Fresno State added three triples and took a 44-39 lead with 14 minutes remaining in the game.
James would cut the Bulldog lead to one point on a pair of occasions halfway through the half and Young tied the game with a rim rattling fast break dunk with 8:52 left.
The tie was short lived though as Fresno State added their seventh triple of the game to move the lead back to three points. Fresno Stated add another triple and later led 60-53 with 7:20 remaining. Fresno State added 11 more points to build 68-53 advantage with 5:44 remaining.
Wyoming would cut the deficit down to 10 points with just under two minutes remaining, but the Bulldogs maintained the momentum to take the victory.
New Williams added 24 points for the Bulldogs. He went 6-of-8 from the three point line. Noah Blackwell added nine points and three assists, while Sam Bittner led the team with six rebounds.
The Pokes return to action next Wednesday evening at Air Force for a 7 p.m. start.