LARAMIE (AP) — Impressive debuts by two newcomers and strong outside shooting by a veteran Friday night carried Wyoming to a 78-60 win over Tennessee-Martin in the opener for both teams.
Returning starter Riley Grabau made 4 of 6 from beyond the arc – all in the first half – en route to a career-high 17 points while freshman Trey Washington III and transfer Charles Hankerson Jr. each added 14 points for the Cowboys (1-0). Larry Nance Jr. collected 10 points, 12 rebounds and two blocks for Wyoming.
Dee Oldham had 15 points, Marshun Newell added 14 and Terence Smith 10 for UT-Martin (0-1).
Washington said afterward that he had the jitters, but it didn’t look that way as he hit his first three shots, all from 3-point range.
“Man, I was nervous as ever. I didn’t know what to do,” he said. “I forgot about every play called in the book. But after the first 3 went in, I relaxed and I just played basketball.”
Wyoming sank 6 of its first 8 shots, including a pair of 3s by Grabau, to race a 17-6 lead. UT-Martin came back to go up 20-19, sparked by Dee Oldham, who scored 11 points off the bench during a 14-2 run. At one point the Skyhawks scored nine straight, prompting Cowboys coach Larry Shyatt to employ a rare zone defense.
“We played more zone tonight than I might’ve played in 40 years in my career, and we kept out of foul trouble doing it,” Shyatt said. New rules cracking down on fouls will force teams to adjust, he said, but added that the Cowboys will certainly adjust.
The Skyhawks took a 32-30 lead with 4:30 left in the first half, but the Cowboys ended the period on a 15-1 surge to go up 45-33. Derek Cooke Jr. had two dunks and Grabau added two 3s during the spurt.
UT-Martin never got closer than 11 in the second half. Oldham’s 3-pointer cut the margin to 53-42 with 13:22 remaining, but the Cowboys started going to the free throw line to build the lead to 18 and were never threatened down the stretch.
“I thought their length really bothered us, because they were able to contest every shot and get every rebound,” UT-Martin coach Jason James said. “And I thought we struggled trying to get shots in the paint. We had to settle for long range.”
Wyoming saw six players with 20 minutes or more and appears to have more depth than last season.
“We’re really comfortable with 10 guys right now,” Shyatt said. “The problem right now is the two most mature players (Hankerson and Jerron Granberry) haven’t played in a while and we’re going to have to let them get the kinks out.”
Hankerson sat out last season after transferring and Granberry played only five games for North Florida before being excused from the team following the death of his father and didn’t play again. He was granted a hardship waiver and has one season of eligibility for the Cowboys. He had three points and three rebounds in his first game for Wyoming.
Wyoming won the rebound battle 39-28 and outshot UT-Martin 48 percent to 35 percent.