LARAMIE, Wyo. — Allen Edwards felt the Wyoming men’s basketball team missed a chance to progress Wednesday in a close win against UNLV.
Saturday, the Cowboys will get another shot. Wyoming (14-7, 4-4 Mountain West) hosts Boise State (12-7, 5-3) at 4 p.m.
The Cowboys blew a 20-point first-half lead before coming back to win by a point against UNLV, but a win against the Broncos would be progress in at least one sense. Wyoming has yet to win consecutive games in conference play and hasn’t been above .500 since winning against Air Force to start the Mountain West schedule.
Though the Cowboys sit alone in sixth place in the conference, only one game separates them from a three-way tie for third in the standings, and Wyoming is only two games back of first-place Nevada.
“We’ve got a very good program coming in Saturday,” Edwards said, “which in a sense, with how crazy this league is, where everybody’s kind of beating up on each other, you have Boise coming in and you get a win, and you’re in the top three, top two. It’s that crazy of a league.”
Boise State has hit a rut after winning the first four games in conference play, losing three of four since. The Broncos won both games against Wyoming last season, 81-71 in Wyoming and 94-71 in Boise.
Boise State is led by Chandler Hutchison’s 17.9 points per game, fourth in the Mountain West, and Paris Austin’s 11.1. Hutchison’s 8.8 rebounds per game also lead the team and are third in the conference.
Boise State’s conference wins have come by an average of 6.8 points, and the Cowboys have had numerous close contests this conference season — none closer than Wednesday.
“I thought in the second half we lost (our) edge,” Edwards said. “It was one of those teams that just felt like they wanted the clock to run out. As soon as 20 minutes started, it’s like they wanted it to be over.
“And I’m saying, ‘That’s not how you take that next step.’ So we have to continue as a staff and as a program to address that, and we have another opportunity to get better.”
Adams gets the start
Junior Lou Adams made his eighth start of the season for Wyoming on Wednesday, and he took advantage by scoring Wyoming’s first eight points of the game. Adams sunk a jumper and then two 3-pointers.
“(I was) just trying to get back into the flow of things,” Adams said. “Being back out there with my teammates, starting again tonight. But not even really starting, just trying to get back healthy and being out there with my teammates. So I was happy to be out there.”
Adams needed just three shots and 2:42 to rack up those eight points. UNLV as a team was unable to match them until the 11:15 mark of the first half, needing 15 shots to get there.
It was his first start since Dec. 23 against Southern California, a game in which Adams suffered an ankle injury that sidelined him the next two games. Adams’ 19 minutes were his most since that USC game.
“It just goes back to my thought process at the beginning of the year,” Edwards said. “It gives me a better chance of balancing how I want to sub. Because I like to balance Lou and (Jason McManamen) and then (Justin James) and (Alexander Aka Gorski). Not saying that they can’t both play at the same time, Jason and Alex. It just gives me an opportunity to have that athleticism with that skill and that shot-making ability between the four of them.
“I don’t like when I have J-Mac and Alex on the floor for an extended period of time together, (and) I don’t like having J.J. and Lou on the floor for an extended period of time. Not to say they can’t play two or three periods here and there, but I just don’t like that, and it gives me an opportunity to flow with my subbing a little bit better than if I started Alex and J-Mac.
“I was just waiting a few games until Lou got back off the injury to do it.”
Edwards said before the season that his favorite thing about this team was the numbers at his disposal. That’s shown so far, as Wyoming’s bench has accounted for 738 points already this season.
That’s the third-most bench points in a season by a Wyoming team during the Mountain West era, trailing the 782 points scored in 2009-10 and the 755 in 1999-2000.
Wyoming’s two leading scorers are coming off the bench: sophomore guard James with 14.9 points per game and junior forward Hayden Dalton with 13.1. James has yet to start a game this season, and Dalton has started once.
James’ 298 points off the bench are the most in a season by a Cowboy in the Mountain West era. Dalton has scored 249, third for a Cowboy in the Mountain West era behind Brett McFall’s 258 in 1999-2000. Prior to Wyoming’s game Wednesday against UNLV, the two had combined for 518 points off the bench, topping the bench production from 12 of the 18 seasons the Cowboys have played in their current conference.
McManamen still cold
McManamen’s shooting woes continued in Wednesday’s win as he failed to hit a 3-pointer for the second straight game and third time this season. The senior, who led the Mountain West in 3-point shooting last year, hadn’t gone consecutive games without a 3-pointer since the final two games of his sophomore season.
Prior to Wyoming’s previous game against UNLV, McManamen had made at least one 3-pointer in his last 38 games. He has now failed to hit one in three of his last four.
The win Wednesday was Wyoming’s first without a McManamen 3-pointer since Nov. 19, 2015, against New Mexico Highlands.