LARAMIE, Wyo. — The Wyoming men’s basketball team’s 2016-17 season was a year of ups and downs.
The Cowboys won 10 of 13 conference games, nearly knocking off a top-25 team in the process. They also won consecutive games just once in Mountain West play and were effectively eliminated from their conference tournament before ever scoring a point.
But Friday, Wyoming’s season ended with an up.
More specifically, up on a ladder, as the Cowboys cut down the Arena-Auditorium nets minutes after a 83-59 CBI championship win over Coastal Carolina in front of crowd of 6,321.
“We have nets right now,” said Justin James, pulling his piece out from behind his right ear. “That’s a good feeling.”
James scored 17 points in the game, 50 in the three-game series and 106 in the tournament to earn MVP honors. Hayden Dalton led the Cowboys Friday with 19 points and 11 rebounds.
Jason McManamen scored six points on 2-of-5 shooting in his final collegiate game. He finishes his career with 1,034 career points, fourth all-time among Wyoming natives at UW. His final shot was a made 3-pointer with 3:10 left in the game.
“It’s just such a great experience I had here,” McManamen said. “I mean, five years, being a kid from Wyoming, I loved every second of it.”
The championship is Wyoming’s second in a postseason invitational tournament, the other being the Cowboys’ 1943 NCAA Tournament championship. With the win, Wyoming set a program record for wins in a single postseason invitational tournament with five. The Cowboys won four in 1986 when they finished second in the NIT.
"I don't know if you can end the season any better," Wyoming head coach Allen Edwards said.
The Cowboys won the same way Friday as they did Wednesday. By 24 points, that is. After being doomed by the Chanticleers’ offensive rebounds and takeaways Monday in Conway, South Carolina, the home environs of the Dome of Doom, where Wyoming has won a record 19 games this year, fixed what ailed the Cowboys. They ran away with both games in their second halves, leading by as many as 27 on Wednesday and 30 on Friday.
The Cowboys were ahead by just one point halfway through the first half, however, when the game shifted on a video review. A Flagrant 1 foul was called on Joseph Williams-Powell, who knocked Lou Adams as he soared for a dunk attempt. Adams sunk both free throws to kick-start a 15-0 Wyoming run, capped by a Dalton 3. The Pokes pushed their lead to 19 by the end of the half, going into the break up 42-23.
The Cowboys, who allowed just 27 first-half points Wednesday, last held an opponent to 23 in a half Jan. 25 against UNLV. The Chanticleers, who played 12 players before halftime, missed all eight of their first-half 3-point attempts.
The Chanticleers chopped the lead to 10 as Wyoming missed 5 of its first 6 shots in the second half. An 18-7 Wyoming response, however, gave the Cowboys a 21-point lead, the largest of the game to that point.
The Cowboys were not called for a foul in the first 11 minutes of the second half. The Chanticleers were called for seven fouls in the second half before Dalton was whistled with 9:00 to play. Wyoming pushed its lead to as many as 30 on an Adams layup.
Coastal Carolina shot 31.3 percent from the field Wednesday and 33.9 percent Friday. The Chanticleers made 19.2 percent of their 3s on Wednesday and 19.0 percent Friday.
After turning the ball over 10 times in the first half each of the first two games, Wyoming had just seven turnovers all game Friday and won the rebounding battle 44-39, 13-11 on the offensive glass.
"We came out and we had the same mindset as we did in the second game," James said. "Defend, rebound, take care of the ball. And we pretty much did that for the whole 40 minutes. I mean, credit to the guys, the coaching staff, everybody. It’s been a wonderful season. I love playing with this team. We came out with a victory. I wouldn’t have it any other way."
Shivaughn Wiggins made the start for Coastal Carolina. Wiggins, a senior who averaged 10.3 points per game this year, hadn’t played since suffering a sprained MCL and torn meniscus March 10 in the Sun Belt tournament. He was a not at full strength, however, and finished with three points on 1-of-6 shooting.
It was James’ 30th game in double figures this season and Dalton’s 12th double-double.
Junior Alan Herndon finished the game on crutches after injuring his ankle.
The Chanticleers had won the first game of the three-game series 91-81 in Conway, South Carolina. The Cowboys took the second game 81-57 at home on Wednesday, allowing its fewest points to a Division-I opponent all season.
The Cowboys finish the year 23-15 in Edwards’ first season as head coach. He is the second coach in Wyoming history to win 20 games his first season, the third first-time head coach to win the CBI and the seventh first-time head coach to win any postseason invitational title.
This is the second straight year a Mountain West team has won the CBI. Nevada won the last year’s tournament and followed it up with Mountain West regular-season and postseason championships this season.