LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) — Wyoming started slow but Larry Nance Jr. got them rolling to beat an inspired Division II Black Hills State 79-65 on Monday.
Nance scored 16 points, including eight straight for the Cowboys down the stretch, and also had seven rebounds to lead a quintet of double-figure scorers.
Josh Adams scored 15 points and tied his career-high with six assists, while Nathan Sobey added 12 points and Riley Grabau and Derek Cooke Jr. had 11 apiece for Wyoming (6-2). Cooke also had nine rebounds.
Black Hills State, which was 2-1 on the season and treated the game as an exhibition, was paced by Myles Henry with 13 points. Joey Mitchell had 11 and Tommy Earl 10 for the Yellow Jackets, whose roster featured four players who prepped in Wyoming.
The Jackets began the second half with an 8-0 surge to take their only lead at 37-36 following a 3 by Sheridan, Wyo., product Riley Ryan with 18:40 remaining. Ryan had canned a trey to start the run and Cameron Anderson, of Gillette, Wyo., sank a turnaround jumper in the middle of the spurt.
Grabau then put Wyoming ahead on a 3, but Earl, who starred at Natrona County High in Casper, made a layup to tie the score at 39. Adams responded with a tough jumper inside, putting Wyoming up for good at 41-39 with 17:27 left. But Black Hills State hung around.
After the teams traded buckets for several minutes, Grabau sank a 3 and Charles Hankerson Jr. added a driving layup to make it 61-52 with 9:44 remaining.
Henry’s 15-foot jumper drew the Yellow Jackets within 64-57, but Nance then took over, scoring on a bank shot, a straight jumper, a layup and a dunk on four consecutive possessions. When he was done, the Cowboys were up 72-59 with 4:10 to play and the margin never shrank below 10 after that.
“We got out of the gates real slow,” Nance said. “Then we really started kicking it into gear. Our offense started flowing, then our guards got me the ball where I could just make layups. If I had missed those I would have had to apologize to them.”
Wyoming led only 36-29 at intermission after struggling with turnovers and Black Hills State’s aggressive offensive rebounding. Wyoming shot 68 percent in the second half (17 of 25) and finished at 61 percent for the night. Black Hills finished at 38 percent from the floor.
Cowboys coach Larry Shyatt said the key down the stretch was “Larry (Nance) asserting himself. Then I think our guys looked for Larry. That was good to see because we’re going to need different moments from different guys.”
Shyatt also praised the 15 assists by his five starters.
“In the end tonight, we passed the test,” he said. “There were times when we didn’t like some of the answers on our test tonight, but we’ll keep getting better, and I like these guys.”
Black Hills coach Bradd Schafer said he was extremely proud of his team for playing with a purpose “from the tip.”
“A lot of times when you play teams at this level you get overwhelmed early,” he said. “I thought we were able to handle those (early minutes) and hang around and hang around and I think our guys really settled in and just did an unbelievable job.”
Earl said he relished the chance to play on the home court of a team he cheered while growing up.
“Yeah, no doubt,” he said. “For all our Wyoming guys, just growing up in the state and coming back in here after previously watching them win Mountain West Conference championships under Steve McClain, it was definitely a good night. Even though we lost, we got better and it was just a good night.”