MWC Tourney: Pokes fall to UNLV in thriller
Sophomore guard Josh Adams posted 24 points and the fifth-seeded University of Wyoming men’s basketball team was within one point of No. 4 seed UNLV with 23 seconds left, but the Rebels made key free throws down the stretch to hold on for a 71-67 victory in the MW Championship quarterfinals on Thursday afternoon in the Thomas & Mack Center. The Cowboys (18-14, 9-9 MW) were eliminated from the MW tournament by the Rebels (20-12, 10-8 MW) for the second time in the last three seasons.
“[The Cowboys] are a great group,” UW head coach Larry Shyatt said. “They play till the end every night. And the best thing about them in my world is, they don't try to be somebody they're not. They just try to be who they are, play hard every night, home, away, win or lose.”
The Rebels used a 15-3 run to go up by 13 points late in the contest and were in control at 65-55 with just over a minute left, but the Cowboys used a late run to make it interesting in front of strong contingent of Wyoming fans in the building. Senior guard Nathan Sobey started the spurt with a dunk and added a three, while fellow senior guard Jerron Granberry converted a three-point play to pull the Pokes within one at 66-64 with 23 seconds left. That would be as close as the Cowboys would get, though. The Rebels converted their next four free throws to go up four with 13 seconds remaining and held on for the win.
Adams posted his fourth-straight game with at least 20 points by tying career highs of 10 field goals and three threes. He is the first Wyoming player to accomplish the feat since Desmar Jackson scored 20 plus in four-straight games in December of 2010. Adams also tied a career high with two blocks. Sobey and Granberry, playing in possibly the final game of their Wyoming careers, added 18 points each. Sobey and Adams had seven rebounds each, while junior forward Derek Cooke Jr. finished with a team-high 10 and two blocks.
Wyoming shot 46 percent (26-of-56) from the field for the game and added 35 percent (8-of-23) beyond the arc, but connected on a season-low 50 percent (7-of-14) at the free throw line. UW’s 56 field-goal attempts were its second most this season. UNLV hit on 44 percent (25-of-57) from the field and 35 percent (6-of-17) from deep. The Rebels outrebounded the Cowboys 38-32 and forced 10 turnovers to break Wyoming’s six-game stretch with less than 10. Both teams earned 30 points in the paint, but UNLV’s bench notched a season-high 40 points for a UW opponent, while the Cowboy bench was held scoreless.
The Cowboys controlled much of the first half, as Adams scored Wyoming’s first 11 points and the Pokes went up by six at 13-7 through nine minutes. UNLV hit back-to-back threes to tie the contest, but Wyoming responded with a 9-2 run for its largest lead of the first half at 22-15 with just over five minutes remaining. The spurt was highlighted by an Adams dunk that brought the crowd to its feet. The Rebels once again fought back to tie the game and ended the half on a 13-5 run to go into halftime up 28-27.
Wyoming shot 44 percent (11-of-25) from the field in the first half and 33 percent (4-of-12) from deep, compared to 35 percent (11-of-31) and 36 percent (4-of-11), respectively, for UNLV. The Pokes owned a 19-15 advantage on the boards and 5-4 in assists. Adams posted 18 points, six rebounds and two blocks in the first half.
The Cowboys now wait for word on Sunday of a possible postseason berth.