LARAMIE, Wyo. (Dec. 11, 2018) – The Wyoming Cowboys battled back from a 14-point deficit to force overtime, but the Denver Pioneers went a perfect 10-of-10 from the free throw line in the extra session to take the contest 90-87. Junior Jake Hendricks and senior Justin James combined for 53 points to lead the Cowboys. James now has 1,600 career points ranking eighth all-time at Wyoming.
“I admire the fight from our guys, with the five guys we had at the end,” Wyoming head coach Allen Edwards said. “But I still think our fight could have been better on the defensive end. We gave up baskets at key moments of the game. Those moments are when you have to win the game on the defensive end of the floor.
Both teams exchanged blows in overtime with the contest being tied five times during the period. Denver’s Donoven Carislie added a tip-in bucket with 21 seconds left and Joe Rosga added four free throws to seal the win for the Pioneers. It marked the first overtime loss for Edward and the Cowboys since December of 2016 against No. 23 USC. Wyoming had won seven-straight overtimes under Edwards.
“I kept it very simple with our guys after the game — rebounding and free throws hurt us,” Edwards said. “They (Denver) got 13 offensive rebounds, and they knocked down their free throws, going 15 of 15. For us from the free-throw line, counting the front ends of 1-and-1s that we missed, we were only 12 of 22 in converting opportunities we had at the free-throw line.”
Hendricks hit a career-high seven three pointers to finish the game with a career-best 27 points. His seven triples were the most by a Cowboy since Jason McManamen hit seven on Feb. 8, 2017. He shot 67 percent from the field on the night. James added 26 points grabbing eight rebounds and five assists. James has scored 20 or more points in all but one game this season. He scored 20 of his points in the second half and overtime.
Redshirt freshman Hunter Thompson tied a career-high with 15 points. He went 6-of-12 from the field and added two assists. Sophomore Hunter Maldonado added 10 points and four rebounds going 4-of-7 from the field. He left the game in the second half with an injury.
The Pokes shot 53 percent from the field on the night for a season-high. The Pioneers shot 50 percent for the game and were a perfect 15-of-15 from the free throw line. Wyoming hit a season-high 11 three pointers and have hit double-digit threes in three-straight games.
“It was also more about our defense than our offense,” Edwards said. “We shot 53 percent from the field, 48 percent from three, but we gave up 50 percent shooting to them and 39 percent from the three to go with their 100 percent from the free-throw line. It was more about not imposing our will on the defensive end of the floor and not rebounding the basketball.”
The Cowboys opened the game a perfect 5-of-5 from the field to race out to a 13-6 advantage. The Pokes did it in all phases. James added two assists on triples from Hendricks and Thompson. James also added an alley-oop dunk.
Hendricks was mister efficiency in the first five minutes of the ball game. He was 4-of-4 from the field with two steals with fast break layups to make it an 18-11 contest. He also added his second-straight triple to make it a 10-point game at 21-11.
The Pioneers would go on an 11-2 run to make it a 23-22 contest with just over 10 minutes remaining in the first half. A three-pointer by Rosga would give the Pioneers their first lead of the game at 27-25 with 9:43 left in the first half.
The Pioneers hit their fifth three of the game, as Taelyr Gatlin’s triple gave Denver a 36-30 advantage with 6:35 left in the opening frame. Denver would later add the lead to eight points at 48-39 with under two minutes left on another Rosga three pointer.
That would be the score going into the half, as the Pokes shot 59 percent from the field with the Pioneers shooting 54 percent. Denver got it done with eight offense rebounds turning those into 10 second chance points.
The Pioneers opened the second half moving the lead to 14 points in the opening minutes. Wyoming cut it to a seven point game, Hendricks hit back-to-back threes for a 60-53 game with 14:24 left. James added a fast break dunk to cap an 8-0 Wyoming run to make it a five point game at 60-55 with 12 minutes left.
Wyoming would cut the deficit to four points at 65-61 thanks to Thompson, as his four-straight points put the Pokes in the hunt with 6:40 remaining. Wyoming would cut it to one-point at 68-67 with 3:55 on a smooth layup from James on a nice dish from A.J. Banks. But it was cut short on and and-one from Ade Murkey to push the lead back to four points.
The Pokes would get defensive form their holding the Pioneers scoreless for the final 3:35 of regulation. Wyoming tied the contest with a pair of free throws from James with 25 seconds remaining to send the game to extra time.
Rosga led the Pioneers in scoring with 22 on the night. He went 7-for-7 from the free throw line. Ade Murkey added 17 points with Ronnie Harrell Jr. adding 15 and Tory Stewart-Miller adding 10.
The Cowboys will return to action on Dec. 21 at the Don Haskins Sun Bowl Invitational in El Paso, Texas. The Pokes open up play against East Tennessee State in a contest set for a 5 p.m. start.