DENVER -- Larry Nance Jr. couldn't do it alone.

When the Cowboys were introduced prior to their road game at Denver on Sunday, Nance's name came up last -- as it always does. The lanky 6-foot-8 junior trotted through a path cleared by his teammates, high fiving each of them as he approached senior Jerron Granberry.

The two Cowboys leaped as high as they could, Nance's head clearing Granberry's as the teammates bumped chests. Nance landed on his feet while Granberry sprawled backwards to the court, an embarrassed smirk emerging at the end of the crash landing.

Granberry wasn't the last player Nance would overpower.

Wyoming's junior forward finished with a career-high 38 points and 12 rebounds, the most points a Cowboy has scored in a game since Jay Straight scored 41 against Colorado State in 2005. Despite Nance's theatrics, however, Wyoming fell on the road, 64-61.

Nance carried Wyoming (7-3) throughout a sluggish first half, scoring 15 of the team's 23 points in the first 20 minutes. The baskets came in all shapes and sizes, as the explosive big man corralled two alley oop dunks, dropped in a few layups and even stepped back to show off a rarely-used mid range jumper.

He bullied Denver big men Chris Udofia and Drick Bernstine throughout the game, dunking over each and managing to sky over opposing bodies for open defensive rebounds.

Though Nance represented the vast majority of the Cowboys' offense, he still credited his teammates with allowing him to thrive.

“These guys just got me in the perfect spot to score," Nance said. "And once again, it was mostly layups and dunks and free throws, which we worked on a lot at practice."

Besides Nance, though, the Cowboys' shooters suffered -- especially behind the arc. Wyoming made only one of 10 3-point attempts in the loss, easily the team's lowest output of the season. In the Cowboys' last three games in Denver's Magness Arena, Wyoming has hit only two of 26 3-point tries.

“That defense that they have is a switching D, so you can barely get open," Granberry said. "Coaches made adjustments, and we got open threes. We just didn’t make them. And they hit shots.”

After trailing by nine at halftime, the Cowboys stormed back in the second half, as Nance scored the team's first 11 points of the period to keep his team in contention.

He hit layups. He hit jumpers. He hit awkward, dipping runners. Nance even hit all eight of his free throw attempts, a rarity for No. 22 in gold.

"Luckily, we had Superman," Granberry said after the game.

Unfortunately for the Cowboys, Brett Olson was kryptonite.

The Pioneers' guard scored a team-high 23 points for Summit League foe Denver (4-5), 16 of them coming in the second half. After Nance calmly sank two free throws to knot the score at 61, Olson drove to his left, pulled up and hit a picturesque jumper over Nathan Sobey's outstretched hand with 3.7 seconds to play. A foul was called on Sobey, and Olson hit the free throw with equal ease.

“[It was] A great shot by Brett Olson," Wyoming coach Larry Shyatt said after the game. "Twenty-three feet away, you can’t coach that. He just makes a tough shot.”

Down 64-61, Granberry completed a desperate baseball pass to Nance, who snatched it in a crowd at midcourt. He turned and whipped it to Trey Washington III in the corner, who released an arcing 3-pointer as the final buzzer rang.

The ball hit the front rim, then the backboard, then fell harmlessly to the hardwood. The referees concluded that Washington had stepped out of bounds before releasing the shot, anyway.

Though the Cowboys had controlled the majority of the second half, they couldn't find the shot to put the Pioneers away.

Nance was Superman, but Olson was the hero.

“Right now I’m more upset with the loss and kind of feeling for some of these guys in the locker room that are from Colorado and really wanted this one," Nance said after the loss. "It’s good to have a night like this, but it’d be better with a W.”

Reach reporter Mike Vorel at Mike.Vorel@trib.com. Follow him on Twitter @MikeVorel.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.