A late run from the Wyoming Cowboys fueled their 77-67 road win over the Nevada Wolf Pack on Monday, now moving to 13-2 to equal their best 15-game start since 2014-15 (when they also started 13-2; they ended 25-10).
Nevada trailed by just two with 8:12 remaining. The game subsequently slipped away from the Wolf Pack, who were playing the final of its three-games-in-six-days stretch after its originally-scheduled contest against the Pokes was postponed on Jan. 4.
Wyoming opened the flood gates with an 11-1 run — spearheaded by forwards Hunter Thompson and Graham Ike — to go up 12 with 4:30 remaining. Wolf Pack forward Kenan Blackshear cut it to seven with 3:48 remaining, but Brendan Wenzel countered with a (corner) triple of his own, increasing the advantage back up to double digits.
A pair of Blackshear free throws trimmed it to six, but Ike’s bucket in the paint — his eighth field goal make of the evening — gave Wyoming the 75-67 lead to ice the victory.
“We haven’t figured out how to put together a full 40 minutes of playing hard,” Nevada forward K.J. Hymes said postgame. “We’ve got to play hard for 40 minutes — not 36, not 32, not 28 — we need 40 minutes of working hard and doing us.”
Monday’s loss gives Nevada its third loss in its last five games, dropping to 8-7 overall and 2-2 in conference play.
“I thought Wyoming was tougher,” head coach Steve Alford said. “We did a lot of things that you have to do whether you playing at home or on the road — you get to the free throw line or you defend at a high level — and I thought we had spurts, we just can’t do it for a full 40 minutes. We’re not tough enough and that’s on me. I’ve got to do a much better job of establishing a tougher mindset of being able to play 40 minutes at a really high level.
“We’ve had two games — Wyoming and Boise (State) — very good teams (and) both playing very well. And we’ve had moments of when things get tough, we kind of splintered. And that’s on me. I’ve got to do a much better job of getting these guys to come together tighter when adversity hits ... We’re not handling it in a tough way and that showed tonight.”
The Wolf Pack, falling to 0-6 in Quad 1 and 2 games this season, shot just 39.3 percent, including a season-low 20.0 percent (6-30) from 3-point range.
Collectively, they’ve now canned a dismal 2 percent — 38-for-139 (27.3 percent) — from distance across their last six games.
“We’re not shooting it well at all,” Alford said. “If you’re not shooting it well, then it’s real simple: Stop shooting ... We have not shot the 3-ball well and we shot 30 today.”
Alford linked Nevada’s bloated 3-point shot frequency Monday to toughness, or lack thereof.
“When things get tough, it’s a lot easier to throw one up from 25 than it is to get the ball to the rim, post it, get a good post feed, move after a post feed,” he said. “We can’t get in any rhythm to get that done ... When we get tired and we have a little bit of adversity, the bad shots and really lazy passes come into us. And, again, that’s toughness. When adversity hits us, we’ve got to really zero in on the fundamental disclipline things that you have to do. And we’re not doing that right now.
“We’ve got to try to figure out a way to get to that point.”
Grant Sherfield recorded team highs in points (20) and assists (8), shooting 8-of-19 from the floor. The rest of the team had just four assists combined. Sherfield’s 20 points marked his ninth 20-point game of the season.
Nevada center Will Baker had 12 points with five rebounds on 4-of-8 shooting, including 3-of-4 from the charity stripe. Blackshear tallied 11 points on 3-of-8 shooting from distance, hauling down eight boards while snatching two steals.
Wyoming held Nevada’s other All-Mountain West guard Desmond Cambridge in check. The 6-foot-4 guard finished with just six points on nine attempts — the second straight game he’s finished in single digits after recording double figure scoring totals in 12 of his first 13 games.
It also marked Cambridge’s first game without a 3-point make since Dec. 2, 2020 against San Francisco, the only other time he’s done so in two years with the Wolf Pack.
Hymes, who’s been plagued with ankle and back injuries that’s caused him to miss nine of the team’s first 15 games, had arguably his best game of the season — adding seven points with five rebounds in 14 minutes off the bench.
“That helps us getting K.J. back on the court,” Alford said. “He’s back healthy and that could help us moving forward. He played 14 minutes and had seven (points) and five (rebounds). And I thought he really battled Ike so that’s good having him out there.”
Wyoming featured four double-digit scorers. It netted 42.4 percent of its shots and 40.0 percent from beyond the arc. Drake Jeffries and Graham Ike combined for 44 points on 51.7 percent shooting.
Ike tallied 24 points with 11 rebounds — both team-highs — notching his sixth double-double of the season. Jeffries, the Mountain West’s top volume shooter, sank six 3s — all within the first 17 minutes of the game — his season-high against a Division-I opponent. He finished with 20 points, three rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block.
Thompson added 10 points on 3-of-5 shooting with a pair of 3s off the bench. Hunter Maldonado recorded his eighth career double-double and came two rebounds shy of his first career triple double, finishing with 11 points, eight rebounds and 11 assists.
“(Wyoming) keeps grinding and grinding and grinding — and our tendency is to splinter and we can’t do that,” Alford said. “That falls on me. We’ve got a lot of work in that area to try to get them together and get tougher.”
The Pokes struggled to start, canning just three of its first 12 shots with three unforced turnovers across the game’s first eight minutes.
Cambridge’s jump hook put the Pack up 12-10 early. Thompson’s triple put Wyoming ahead 19-16 with 10:10 left in the first half.
Cambridge’s alley oop gave the Pack the six-point advantage, but a 12-3 Poke run — courtesy of four Jeffries 3-pointers — gave Wyoming the 33-30 lead with under four minutes remaining in the opening half.
Wyoming entered halftime with the 40-38 lead — knocking down 39.4 percent of its jumpers and eight 3s (six from Jeffries) at a 44.4 percent clip. Ike and Jeffries combined for 31 of its 40 points. Nevada shot 55.2 percent with a 36.4 3-point percentage.
Both teams combined for just four points across the first 3:45 of the second half. Ike’s jumper gave Wyoming the 47-42 lead, but Tre Coleman’s layup tied it at 47 with 13:08 remaining.
The Pokes made it 53-48 courtesy of Thompson’s layup. Blackshear’s 3-pointer cut it to 57-55, though a pair of layups from Thompson and Brennan Wenzel re-upped the lead to six with 6:34 to go, prompting a Wolf Pack timeout.
Thompson’s 3-pointer widened it 68-56 — its first double digit lead — to cap an 11-1 run with with 4:30 remaining. Nevada got within six, but couldn’t quite climb over the hill as Wyoming walked away with its 13th victory of the season, tying a Mountain West-best.
Next up: The Wolf Pack will host the Fresno State Bulldogs on Friday, Jan. 21 at 8:00 p.m. PT. It will the last of their two-game homestand.