SHERIDAN — It didn’t take long for the Wyoming All-Stars to realize it had a problem. A big 6-foot-9 problem.
Mack Anderson, of the Montana All-Stars, scored the game’s first six points and his team never looked back as Montana held off Wyoming for a 76-63 victory Friday night during the 43rd annual Wyoming-Montana All-Star game at the Bruce Hoffman Golden Dome.
“We came in and we were going to switch all ball screens, and they noticed the mismatch right away and they threw it in,” Wyoming head coach Matt Hammer said. “(Anderson) is just so long and he’s quick off the floor and has good hands and good feet. He’s going to be a good player.”
Anderson paced Montana with 16 points. Wyoming’s Trey Hladky, who was awarded Mr. Basketball prior to the game, led all scorers with 19 points. Chase Critchfield added 12, and Willie Jones chipped in 11 points and a team-high eight rebounds. Sheridan’s Aaron Woodward tallied eight points.
Woodward got Wyoming on the board with a 3-pointer at the 8 minute, 15 second mark that made it an 8-3 game. Wyoming remained stuck there until Hladky completed a four-point play with 2:30 left in the opening quarter.
The first frame provided a microcosm of things to come for Wyoming. It struggled to make baskets and Montana utilized its size and athleticism to build a double-digit lead in the first half.
Wyoming connected on 29.6 percent of its field goal attempts for the game and just 26.7 percent of its 3-pointers, which surprised Hammer.
“One of the biggest strengths of this team that I’ve seen all week is the ability to shoot the ball,” Hammer said. “We didn’t shoot that well at all tonight.”
Montana owned a 23-15 lead ahead of the second stanza and extended that cushion to 45-27 at halftime.
In the halftime locker room Hammer implored his team to chip away and view the second half as four separate five-minute quarters. It worked.
Wyoming tallied the first six points of the second half to make it a 12-point game. Wyoming then closed the third period on a 9-0 run that included a pair of treys with less than 10 seconds to play, which made it a 58-48 contest.
Wyoming whittled its deficit to as little as seven in the final 10 minutes but couldn’t draw any closer.
“We got it down there, but it’s a thing where once they start going on a run we have to play a little smarter at times,” Hammer said. “We had to play mistake-free basketball when we’re trying to play catchup like that.”
Wyoming couldn’t quite play a flawless second half, something it will attempt to do Saturday up in Billings where the 2018 Wyoming-Montana All-Star series comes to a close.