Senior guard Derrious Gilmore and sophomore forward Larry Nance Jr. both scored 14 points and the University of Wyoming men's basketball team was within six points of #15/14 New Mexico with six minutes left, but the top-seeded Lobos ended the game with an 11-4 run to earn a 59-46 win in the Mountain West Championships quarterfinals on Wednesday. The eight-seeded Pokes (19-13) battled UNM (27-5) and a predominantly Lobo crowd in the Thomas & Mack Center, but couldn't make shots at key moments.
"I'm really proud of these guys," UW head coach Larry Shyatt said. "I'm proud of a lot of things and a lot of attributes, but I'm probably proudest of the fact that today was synonymous with many games we played this year. They really didn't care if a team was 14th in the nation or on the road or home. They played with a sense of urgency."
The Cowboys trailed 34-24 at halftime, but started the second half with a 9-2 spurt to claw within three five minutes into the half. New Mexico made its way to the free throw line to go back up by double digits just over halfway through the final period. UW made one last run, cutting the lead to six with just over six minutes left, but the Lobos found their shot for an 11-4 finishing run.
"We played with a level of toughness," Shyatt said. "Especially coming out in the second half down 10 to make their staff call timeout to cut the game to three, and to hold them, if I'm not mistaken, for 11 and a half minutes without a basket, to me really is an example of what they've been to me personally. It's not easy to rely on defense when you're troubled on offense. This team has consistently done that. I'm proud of them."
Nance went 4-of-9 from the field and 6-of-9 at the free throw line to go with six rebounds and three steals. Gilmore posted the same point total thanks to four threes and three assists. Freshman guard Josh Adams posted 12 points and two assists. All three scored in double figures for the second-consecutive game.
Wyoming had its chances, especially in the first 10 minutes of the second half, but shot just 32 percent (16-of-50) from the field and 26 percent (6-of-23) beyond the arc. New Mexico hit 41 percent (17-of-42) and 44 percent (4-of-9), while earning a 33-28 advantage in rebounds, 12-11 in assists and 5-0 in blocks.
New Mexico built an early lead in the first half, thanks to makes on 7 of its first 8 shots and three of three beyond the arc. Gilmore made two-straight treys and added two free throws to keep it a 19-15 game at the 12-minute mark, though. The Lobos responded with a 10-3 run to go up by double digits at 29-18, before a layup from senior forward Leonard Washington and three from Adams closed the gap to six with three minutes left in the half. UNM closed the half on a 5-1 run to go into halftime up 34-24.
UNM outpaced the Pokes in the first half by shooting 44 percent (12-of-27) from the field and 67 percent (4-of-6) from deep, compared to just 32 percent (8-of-25) and 27 percent (4-of-15) for Wyoming. The Lobos earned a 17-15 advantage in rebounds, 9-5 in assists and 3-0 in blocks.
The Pokes started the first five minutes of the second half with a 9-2 run that included four points from Nance, as Wyoming cut the lead to three at 36-33. The Lobos weren't hitting from the floor, mired in a 1-of-9 start to the second half, but found their way to free throw line to stay in front through the middles minutes. UNM hit its first field goal of the second half with 9:37 left to push the lead back to double digits at 48-37, but Gilmore and Adams made buckets to cut the advantage to six with just over seven minutes left. That would be as close at Wyoming would get, though, as UNM ended the game on an 11-4 run.
Wyoming now waits for word on a possible postseason berth. The Pokes played in the College Basketball Invitational last season and last appeared in the National Invitational Tournament after the 2003 season.
Courtesy Wyoming Media Relations