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LARAMIE (AP) — Larry Nance Jr. scored 29 points and Wyoming shot 69 percent — its best shooting performance in 10 years — to rally past Northern Colorado 72-59 on Sunday.
Nance was 11 of 14 shooting and also grabbed 13 rebounds as the Cowboys, who trailed by 12 late in the first half but shot 84 percent in the second (16 of 19), pulled away down the stretch to snap a two-game skid.
Josh Adams scored 16 points and Riley Grabau added 10 points and tied his career high with six assists for Wyoming (8-4).
Dominique Lee scored a career-high 17 points while Tevin Svihovec had 11 and Jordan Wilson and Derrick Barden added 10 apiece for Northern Colorado (6-3), which saw its four-game win streak end.
Northern Colorado took advantage of Wyoming’s 12 first-half turnovers to build a pair of 12-point leads. But Nance had five points and three rebounds during a 12-2 spurt just before the break that drew Wyoming within 28-26. His dunk with 8:33 left put the Cowboys ahead for good at 48-47.
It was the third straight double-double for Nance, who is now averaging 17 points and nearly 10 rebounds per game.
“I’m pretty satisfied with how I’ve been playing, but if I scored three points and grabbed two rebounds and we still won, same ol’ same ol’, I’m still happy that we won,” he said. “As long I can do whatever I can do to help these guys win, I’ll keep doing it.”
Northern Colorado coach B.J. Hill said three of his starters were on the bench in foul trouble when Wyoming began its comeback late in the first half. But Nance played a large part, too, he said.
“He’s a heck of a player. He’s an NBA-level guy and he did what he should do,” Hill said. “He’s a handful.
“When he shoots the ball like that, I don’t know how you can guard him.”
After two close losses, Wyoming coach Larry Shyatt said his team refused to look back or make excuses. “In terms of embracing adversity, I don’t know if I’ve been with a team I’ve ever been prouder of in that respect,” he said. “Finally our guys stayed the course. They connected the dots. I’m really happy for them because this was a tough five-week schedule.”
The Bears relaxed a bit after building their big lead, Barden said, and didn’t play sound defense after that.
“I just don’t think we were getting over screens very well,” he said. “They were getting open shots. If you can’t defend, you don’t win.”
Wyoming, averaging 11.4 turnovers per game, committed 12 in the first 17 minutes, but controlled the ball better after that while shooting at a blistering pace.
“I think we were trying to make plays that would look good instead of making the smart basketball play, making the open pass,” Nance said. “We were trying to make the tricky one through traffic that would awe the crowd.”
The 69-percent effort (25 of 36) was the best since shooting 72 percent against Tennessee State on Dec. 17, 2003. In addition, the Cowboys held the Bears to a season-low 22 percent (4 of 18) from beyond the arc.
Wyoming took its first lead on a dunk by Derek Cooke Jr. early in the second half before the lead changed hands eight more times. Lee’s layup at the 9:20 mark gave the Bears their last advantage, 47-46. A steal by Adams led to a dunk on an inbounds play for Nance, giving Wyoming the lead for good. Nance hit a couple of 3s and added a dunk as the Cowboys pulled away and eventually went up by 16.