LARAMIE — The Cowboys recorded their hottest shooting game of the season with bests from the field and behind the arc in a 91-81 win over Eastern Washington in the first round of the College Basketball Invitation Wednesday evening in the Arena-Auditorium.
Wyoming (19-14 overall) recorded 50 points off the bench, as five players scored in double-figures for the fifth time this season.
“I thought it was a good showing by our guys,” UW head coach Allen Edwards said. “Obviously, we talked a lot at practice this week about coming out and playing with energy. Nobody wants to end their season after what happened at the Mountain West Tournament. To be given new life here tonight and come out ready to play for a full 40 minutes against a quality opponent, I was pleased with the way our guys played tonight.”
The Cowboys were 35 of 60 (58 percent) from the field and were 11 of 18 (61 percent) from behind the arc. Wyoming now has 318 triples on the season, a single-season school record. The Pokes have also hit double-digit 3s in 10-straight games.
Wyoming owned a 34-24 advantage on the glass and recorded 10 points off of both turnovers and second chances.
Sophomore guard Justin James led UW with 19 points on the night. Junior forward Hayden Dalton added 18 points for UW. Junior guard Louis Adams had 16 points with junior forward Alan Herndon pouring in 12 points and redshirt freshman guard Cody Kelley tying a career-high with 10 points.
Wyoming recorded 21 assists with junior guard Jeremy Lieberman dishing out five and senior guard Jason McManamen adding four.
“It, of course, always looks good when you have five guys scoring in double figures,” Edwards said. “But I also emphasize that our best offense comes from our defense. When we’re able to get the defensive rebound and get out in transition, it makes our offense more effective.”
The Pokes got off to a 7-2 lead in the opening minutes thanks to strong defense and passing. McManamen found Herndon for a dunk to start off the scoring followed by a slick steal and layup from Lieberman and a deep triple from James.
The Eagles tied the contest at 14 on a Mason Peatling layup at the 13:29 mark of the half, as it was a part of a 6-2 run for EWU. Eastern Washington took its first lead at 20-18 on a layup from Bogdan Bliznyuk, but that was answered by triples from Herndon and Aka Gorski to make it a 24-20 game midway through the half.
The Cowboys capitalized on the momentum and turned it into a 13-3 run to take a 31-23 lead with 8:23 left in the first half. Adams scored 5 straight points to spearhead the Cowboy attack. Another run of 10 gave UW a 41-26 advantage.
The Eagles cut the UW lead to 10 points at 41-31 with two minutes remaining in the half, but a 3-pointer by James propelled the Pokes to a 44-32 halftime lead.
EWU opened the second frame on a 15-6 run to make it a 50-47 game four minutes into the half. The Eagles hit three triples and Jacob Wiley added 8 points during the streak. Wiley kept his roll going, cutting the lead to 54-53 on a 3-point play with 13:45 left in the frame.
The Pokes used a 9-0 run to build the lead back to double-digits at 63-53 midway through the half. The Pokes moved it to a 13-point lead on a fast break lob from Lieberman to Adams to make it 70-57 with just under eight minutes remaining.
The Eagles cut the UW lead to as few as 8 points, but 3s from Herndon and Dalton sealed the 91-81 win for the Pokes.
The Eagles were paced by Bliznyuk, who poured in a game-high 29 points and seven assists. Wiley added 26 points, and Von Hoff added 17 with five 3-pointers on the night.
“I always tell our guys it’s a process — stay the course,” Edwards said. “We went in with a game plan, and even though their one player, Bogdan Bliznyuk, got off today with 29 points, he did that by making 2s, and he only had two 3s. I thought the way our guys executed the game plan showed growth. They didn’t panic; they stayed the course and were able to build the lead back up in the second half.”
Wyoming advanced to the College Basketball Invitational quarterfinals on Monday, where the Cowboys will host Missouri-Kansas City at 7 p.m. in the Arena-Auditorium.
Season-ticket holders have until 5 p.m. Thursday to claim their tickets. Tickets start at $10 per adult and $8 per youth. Priority tickets will also be available for $16 (gold) and $12 (blue). Tickets can be purchased and renewed on GoWyo.com/tickets, over the phone at 307-766-7220 or in person from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Wyoming Athletic Ticket Office.
Student tickets will also be available for $5 per ticket. Students would need to show their WYO-Wildbunch App or a student ID to purchase. Students can purchase these tickets in person at the Wyoming Athletic Ticket Office or at the Student Union Box Office.