LARAMIE– The Cowboys shot 50 percent from the field and senior forward Hayden Dalton added 27 points to lead Wyoming past Utah State 83-65 on Wednesday evening in the Arena-Auditorium.
Dalton is now one-point shy of 1,000 for his career in the Brown and Gold.
The Mountain West Features a Competitive Field
“I thought we had a good few days of preparation for tonight’s game,” Wyoming head coach Allen Edwards said. “We didn’t let the Fresno State game stay in our minds too long, but I think it speaks highly of our conference how competitive the teams are across the board.
“All you have to do is look at the standings to see how competitive this league is, and because of that this was an important game for us in the sense of trying to create some separation between us and some other teams.”
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Dalton Leads All Scorers with 27 Points
Dalton shot 8-of-13 from the field to lead all scorers with 27 points, his fifth 20-point performance in the last six outings and 10th of the season. The Pokes are 9-1 this year when Dalton scores at least 20 points.
Junior guard Justin James added 14 points on 6-of-12 shooting and tallied a game-high six assists, matching his season best.
Redshirt junior guard Nyaires Redding and senior guard Alexander Aka Gorski each added right points with Aka Gorski grabbing a season-high six rebounds.
UW Makes Utah State’s Defense Work
“The best part of our half-court offense was I had a tremendous conversation with J.J. (Justin James) and H.D. (Hayden Dalton),” Edwards said. “While they have a lot freedom to shoot the basketball, with that freedom comes responsibility.
“But my thing to them was if we don’t have an easy early shot let’s make them (Utah State) work on defense.
“There was one possession in that second half that I commended them on how quickly the ball was popping around the perimeter, and because the ball was moving so well and making Utah State’s defense move we ended up getting a layup.”
Cowboys Shoot 50 Percent From the Field
The Pokes shot 50 percent from the field for the sixth time this season. It was the fourth time this year that the Pokes have shot 50 percent after shooting in the 30 percent range the game before. Wyoming held the advantage on the glass 34-30.
The Pokes recorded 11 second chance points and scored 17 points off of Aggie turnovers.
The Pokes and Aggies battled early to a 6-6 contest with the Pokes hitting two of their first three attempts, as UW held Utah State to 2-of-5 to open the game, which were both three pointers from the corner.
Cowboys Take the Lead Half Way through the First Half
The Pokes used a 10-0 run to take a 21-12 lead halfway through the half. Four different Pokes added to the scoring frenzy with Redding adding four of those points. James also added a fast break dunk after a steal on the inbounds pass.
After the Aggies cut the lead to four points the Pokes recorded back-to-back three pointers from sophomore guard Cody Kelley and Dalton to build the lead to 10 points at 31-21 with 6:29 left in the half.
It marked Dalton’s 11th point of the contest, as he opened the game 3-of-5 from the field.
The Cowboys held the Aggies scoreless for nearly four minutes to take a 41-29 lead with just over two minutes left in the half. Aka Gorski and James added back-to-back triples to lead the surge.
Pokes Build Lead in Second Half
The Pokes defense continued their pesky ways to open the second half building a 53-36 lead at the 17:38 mark of the half thanks to a 7-3 run. Senior forward Alan Herndon added five points, as he tied Larry Nance Jr. for ninth all-time in career games played with 124.
Wyoming used an 8-0 run to build a 68-47 (21 points) lead for their largest of the game to that point with 9:22 left in the half. The Pokes bench added four of those points with nice work in the paint by sophomore forward Andrew Moemeka and senior guard Louis Adams.
Once again back-to-back threes helped the Pokes build a 25 point lead at 76-51 with 6:46 left. This time Aka Gorski and Adams did the damage for UW. The Pokes shot 48 percent in the second frame following up 51 percent in the first half.
The Pokes went 9-of-10 from the free throw line in the second half and led for 37:21 in the game to earn the 83-65 win.
UW Held Utah State’s Top Scorers Under Their Average
The Aggies were led by DeAngelo Isby with 16 points on the night. Wyoming held Utah State’s top two scorers under their season average, as Sam Merrill added 12 points and Koby McEwen added seven points and recorded five turnovers.
“I commended Ny Redding and Cody Kelley on the job they did on (Koby) McEwen,” Edwards said. “I thought they did a good job of forcing him into tough shots or forcing him to try and make tough plays.
“At the same time, we wanted to try and make (Sam) Merrill play inside the three-point line because he is such a deadly shooter. To be this deep into the season and still be shooting over 50 percent from the three-point line — that is impressive and that is what he is shooting in conference play.
“We did a pretty good job of keeping him inside the three-point line, but he got a couple threes off in the second half and he knocked them down. Overall, not only on those two guys, but I thought our energy and our activity was pretty good tonight.”
The Pokes return to action on Saturday heading to UNLV for a 6 pm start in the Thomas & Mack Center. The game can be seen on CBS Sports Network.