Third Time Uncharming: Cowboys Eliminated from MW Tournament by Lobos
By Justin Michael
With the Cowboys season coming to an end with an 85-75 loss to third-seeded New Mexico in the MW Tournament on Thursday night, coach Allen Edwards took a look at the big picture of a 20-win season.
“What I always try to do within even the game, I always try to find what happened over the season," he said. "And like I told those guys, in the past 16 years there's only been two teams that have competed in the conference play and came out with more wins and losses, and that's this team and the team that won in '15,” head coach Alan Edwards said.
“So when you look at the tradition of the program, in the last 16 years you're saying, well, you were one of those two teams, I think that's a lot to speak about.”
The one headache that wouldn't go away for the Cowboys was New Mexico.
The Lobos mastered the Cowboys, beating them three times during the season, only the fourth time the Cowboys have lost three games in a season to a current member of the Mountain West, the second time against New Mexico. The Lobs beat the Cowboys in Albuquerque 75-66 and 119-114 in the highest scoring game in AA history during the regular season, and then came Thursday night's elimination from the MW Tournament.
New Mexico also beat the Cowboys three times in 2009, eliminating Wyoming from the MWC tournament that year with a 59-49 victory. The Cowboys also went 0-3 against Colorado States back in 1917, losing by scores of 18-12, 34-5 and 42-23 to the Rams, and then were eliminated in the MWC by UNLV by a 70-63 scored in 2005 after losing regular season games to the Lobos by scores of 79-67 and 68-66.
In the loss to New Mexico in Laramie on Feb. 20, Edwards felt like his team tried to do too much with the basketball. The result was 18 turnovers and a season-high total for points allowed.
Thursday night the Cowboys slowed down the Lobos offensively, but the Cowboys recorded 12 turnovers and allowed UNM to set the pace.
Offensively, the Lobos pushed the pace and consistently found ways to attack the Cowboys in the paint. Once they converted on that end, they would immediately line up and attempt to stifle the Cowboys offense with the full-court press. The Cowboys were never able to adjust and get their scorers in rhythm.
Along with struggling to create a consistent offensive rhythm, Wyoming was dominated on the glass. The Lobos out-rebounded the Cowboys 38-27 and the discrepancy would have been worse if UNM would not have given up three easy offensive rebounds to begin the second half.
Twenty-four hours removed from a nearly perfect performance against San Jose State, junior guard Justin James struggled mightily Thursday, combining with Hayden Dalton for make only eight of 28 field goal attempts.
New Mexico consistently double-teamed James, who scored 54 points in the two regular season games against the Lobogs, and it worked. James went 3-of-15 from the floor and missed all five of his 3-point attempts in the contest.
"We spent a lot of time deciding how we were going to guard Justin James," first-year New Mexico head coach Paul Weir said. "He’s really hurt us in two games, and we did an excellent job on him tonight. We really guarded him with three people, and that was the idea, and we did a really good job containing him."
Dalton, who along with James was a first-team All-MW selection, made just 5-of-13 field goal attempts and turned the ball over four times. His frustration was evident throughout, as he continually tried to get his shot up and help his team.
“Their whole team is all about pressure,” Dalton said. “No easy catches. We weren't getting clean looks off, and they kind of just rushed us a little.”
While James and Dalton struggled, senior forward Alan Herndon came up big for the Cowboys. Herndon recorded 19 points, five rebounds and played a team-high 36 minutes.
Cody Kelley added 11 points to the mix as well. The sophomore guard made three 3-pointers and was an efficient 4-of-6 from the field.
The third-seed Lobos will play Utah State in the semi-finals on Friday with top-seeded Nevada playing San Diego State.
From the Desk of Tim Harkins
. • Wyoming is 7-7 all-time in Mountain West Conference quarterfinal games.
• After falling behind 10-1 to start the game, Wyoming outscored New Mexico 34-28 the rest of the first half to end the half down by only four points, 39-35.
• After pulling to within three points at 76-73 with 2:55 remaining in the game, Wyoming was out-scored 9-2 down the stretch. • The Cowboys have scored 2,633 points this season, which ranks No. 3 in school history.
• With its nine three-point field goals in the game, Wyoming now has 304 threes for the season, exceeding 300 threes for the third consecutive season.
• Wyoming shot 57 percent in the first half, marking the second consecutive game against the Lobos that the Pokes shot 57 percent in the first half.
• After the two teams combined for 233 points in their Feb. 20 meeting in Laramie, they combined for 73 fewer on Friday.
• Wyoming handed out 40 assists on 57 made field goals in its two games in this year’s MW Tournament. UW had 20 assists on 29 made field goals against San Jose State in the first round and 20 assists on 28 made field goals versus New Mexico.
• Wyoming’s 518 assists this season rank No. 5 in school history.
• Herndon played in his 133rd career game tonight, the most in school history.
• Herndon added one blocked shot in the game to bring his career total to 184. That ranks him No. 3 in school history.
• His 72 blocks this season is the 7th best single season total in Wyoming history.
• Herndon scored in double figures for the 60th time in his career with a team-high 19 points. He scored in double figures in his last three games and in 20 of 33 games this season.
• With his 11 points tonight, Cody Kelley scored in double figures for fourth time this season. He was only three points shy of his career high of 14 points that he scored against San Diego State on Dec. 27, 2017, in Laramie.
• The third Cowboy to score in double figures for the game was Hayden Dalton, with 12 points. It was Dalton’s 28th double-figure game in 33 games this season and his 58th career double-figure game.
• Dalton had 85 made threes this season, which ranks as the 5th best single season in UW history. His 147 career threes is No. 8 all-time among Wyoming Cowboys.