Aggies Pull Away From Wyoming Late

photo by Darrel Johnson, KFBC radio

by staff–14 Feb ’19

The Wyoming Cowboys went toe-to-toe with one of the top teams in the Mountain West on Wednesday evening, but a late run by Utah State hindered the Cowboys in a 76-59 loss inside the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum in Logan, Utah. Wyoming shot a season-high 61 percent from the field in the first half, but were held to 27 percent in the second frame.

“Our guys fought hard and were consistent until the late run,” UW head coach Allen Edwards said. “We mixed up the defense well in the first half and they hit shots in the second half. I always commend the team on the positive energy. We executed a game plan, but made some mental errors. We didn’t find a way to fight through late in the second half and played relax and off balance.”

Senior Justin James added 26 points for his 84th game in double-figures in his career and the 43rd game with 20 or more points in his career. He moved into the top-10 in career three pointers standing ninth with 144 in his career.

“JJ has been JJ all year,” Edwards said “He plays the game the right way. He took care of the basketball and made the right reads. He has truly been great this season.”

Redshirt freshman Hunter Thompson and freshman Trace Young added seven points. Junior Jake Hendricks added six points in his return to the Cache Valley.

Wyoming shot 43 percent from the field for the night going 21-of-49. The Aggies shot 49 percent from the field and 50 percent from behind the arc. The Aggies also held a 35-24 advantage on the glass and scored eight second chance points.

Both teams came out firing in the opening minutes combing for five of six from the field. The Pokes held the advantage 8-6 thanks to a jumper and triple from James and an additional trey ball from Thompson. But the Aggie’s Abel Porter added his second and third three of the game to give USU a 12-8 advantage with 16:23 left in the opening half.

The Pokes would tie the game at 12-12 with four free throws, but the Aggies went on an 11-0 run to build a 23-12 advantage with 11:39 left in the opening half. Sam Merrill fueled the run for the Aggies with a pair of three pointers.

The Pokes would cut the deficit to seven points on a pair of occasions thanks to James and Young, but the Aggies seventh three of the game built the lead back to 10 points at 32-22 with 6:38 left in the frame.

Young would cut the deficit to five with a deep three pointer with 4:19 left in the opening stanza followed by a layup from senior Jordan Naughton for a 34-31 contest. Freshman Brandon Porter tied the game with a triple with 2:39, as it was an 8-0 run for the Pokes over two minutes.

Both teams would use free throws late in the first half for a 37-37 contest at the break. Wyoming shot 61 percent in the first frame from the field for the highest in the opening frame this season and best since shooting 62 percent at Air Force on Feb. 4, 2017.

Hendricks hit his first triple of the game in front of his family and friends to give the Pokes a 40-39 lead almost two minutes into the second half. A bucket and a pair of free throws by Merrill gave the Aggies the upper hand at 43-40 a minute later.

The Aggies would battle to take a 51-47 lead thanks to a 7-0 run over 2:45. Wyoming would struggle from the field going on a stretch of 1-of-7.  The Aggies would push the lead to six points at 60-54 with five-straight made baskets with just over six minutes left.

James would score five-straight points including a three pointer to move him to ninth in career pointers with 143, as he tied Alexander Aka Gorski and Fennis Dembo. It would be a two point lead, the largest of the game to that point for Wyoming.

Hendricks would cut the deficit to 60-57 with a triple with 4:36 left, but a 16-2 run over the final 4:18 to take the win.

The Aggies were led in scoring by Sam Merrill with 19 points. He went 4-of-6 from the arc. Neemias added 14 points and 10 rebounds. All of his points came in the second half.

The Cowboys return to action on Saturday evening in the Arena-Auditorium at 8 p.m. hosting No. 7/6 Nevada.

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