LARAMIE, Wyo. -- It has become evident more than halfway through this Mountain West men's basketball season that just about any team can beat just about any conference opponent.
Wednesday at the Arena-Auditorium, that was almost so true that it became false. That is, it almost looked as though neither of the two Mountain West teams participating was capable of beating the other and Wyoming and Fresno State were going to keep playing until the end of time.
Mercifully, the basketball gods decided that four overtimes would do, and the Cowboys held off the Bulldogs 102-100 in a 60-minute seesaw that gave Wyoming its first consecutive wins this conference season.
"That was probably the craziest game I've ever been a part of," senior Jason McManamen said. "Four overtimes. So many big shots, making big free throws. It was fun tonight."
The game matched Wyoming's longest in history -- the Cowboys beat Air Force in quadruple overtime in 2002 -- and was the second quadruple overtime game in NCAA play this the season. Alabama and South Carolina played the other just a day ago.
In what would have been the headline any other night, McManamen finished with a career-high 30 points, beginning the game 7 of 7 from 3-point range.
"That's the Jason that we know as a ball club," head coach Allen Edwards said.
But by the time the four overtime periods had ended and McManamen had missed six straight from 3-point range, his hot start felt like it had happened in a different game.
The Cowboys led late in each of the first three overtimes, but Fresno State scored the final three points of overtime, the final four points of double overtime and the final three points of triple overtime. The Bulldogs scored the final point of quadruple overtime as well, but two Jeremy Lieberman mid-range jumpers and a McManamen free throw were enough to deny Fresno State another comeback.
Four Bulldogs fouled out of the game, and Karachi Edo left in triple overtime with an injury. Sophomore Justin James and junior Alan Herndon fouled out for Wyoming, which was without junior Alexander Aka Gorski because of an ankle injury. Junior Hayden Dalton set a career high with 20 rebounds to go with 21 points.
Wyoming hit 15 3-pointers, its most in Mountain West play this season. The Cowboys hit just six triples in a Jan. 4 loss at Fresno State, sinking none after halftime.
On Wednesday, McManamen wasn't the only Cowboy shooting well from deep. Wyoming hit 6 of its first 9 3-pointers, one game after starting 7 of 8 against Air Force. Wyoming’s fifth and sixth 3-pointers gave the Pokes a 30-27 lead with 4:37 to play before halftime. It was Wyoming’s first lead since 7-5, and an Edo dunk would be the only points scored the rest of the half.
Fresno State began the second half on a 10-3 run, and Wyoming wouldn't regain the lead until McManamen hit his first 3-pointer of the half with 12:19 left in regulation. The Bulldogs didn't fade, however, and Wyoming needed another McManamen 3 to tie the game at 52-all, and yet another to tie it again at 57. His last triple in regulation, and the game, reestablished the lead for Wyoming at 61-60. Following a Cody Kelley field goal, however, Fresno State answered with a 5-0 run.
Regulation proved not to be enough, as Dalton tied the game at 65 with 44 seconds remaining. McManamen drew a charge on the next possession, but his 3-point attempt at the buzzer resulted in his first miss from behind the arc all game.
Two free throws from Dalton and another from Herndon gave Wyoming a three-point lead in overtime after Fresno State's Jahmel Taylor hit an NBA-length 3 to tie the game at 70. But Dalton fouled Deshon Taylor on a 3-point attempt with 2 seconds to play, and he sunk them all to force double overtime -- though Dalton nearly remedied his mistake with a last-second turnaround attempt that just missed.
The Cowboys took a late lead in double overtime as well, going up four after senior Morris Marshall hit his fifth and sixth free throws of the period -- far from a given, considering the teams combined to miss 21 free throws in the game. But Deshon Taylor, who had a game-high 32 points, hit four free throws of his own to end the period tied at 85.
It seemed as though triple overtime might be the charm when Dalton hit a pair of free throws to put Wyoming up three with less than a minute to play, but Jahmel Taylor hit another crowd-silencing 3, this time while falling down, to force quadruple overtime.
The Cowboys, who never trailed in the third or fourth overtimes, built a lead yet again when Lieberman hit his consecutive jumpers, sandwiched by Dalton's drawn charge on the other end.
But even the deciding period didn't go down easily. McManamen missed the second of his free-throws to keep it a one-possession game. Wyoming fouled Deshon Taylor, however, and Fresno State was called for a lane violation while trying to rebound his intentionally missed second free throw. Lieberman caught the long inbounds pass and dribbled out the win.
It was the first game in which Wyoming had scored 100 points since last year's season opener against Bristol and the first conference game in which Wyoming had reached the century mark since 2003 at New Mexico.
The game had heavy implications in the tight Mountain West standings. A loss would have put Wyoming in ninth place in the division. Instead, the Cowboys and Bulldogs are now tied for fifth at 6-6.
The Cowboys play Saturday at Utah State, which Wyoming beat 95-87 on Jan. 11.