BOISE, Idaho – When Boise State and Wyoming last met on a basketball court, both teams were without key players.
The Broncos had suspended four, including leading scorer Derrick Marks. The Cowboys were without senior guard Luke Martinez, who had been injured, then suspended due to legal trouble. Saturday’s rematch was to showcase the two teams at full-strength. But, to Wyoming’s detriment, that didn’t happen.
While Boise State’s roster was re-stocked, Wyoming was without sophomore forward and starter Larry Nance Jr.
The result was a Wyoming team that rallied from an 18-point halftime deficit but simply didn’t have enough in the end. The Cowboys (16-7, 2-7 Mountain West) lost 68-61 at Taco Bell Arena.
Nance’s health had been a question heading into the game. UW coach Larry Shyatt said Thursday the 6-foot-8 forward that had started every game this season was still hurting from a fall that happened in UW’s 61-53 victory at Cal State Bakersfield on Wednesday.
Nance warmed up with his teammates Saturday despite favoring his right wrist, which was wrapped in tape. But Torrington native and freshman guard Jason McManamen started for the first time in his career as UW presented a four-guard look alongside senior forward Leonard Washington.
“We had a pretty good idea [Friday],” Shyatt later said about Nance being bound to the bench. “Larry is working at it. A lot of it is up to his pain tolerance. But we didn’t think it would be the right thing to do to play him for one minute tonight. Hopefully it’s a day-to-day situation.”
With Nance (10.5 points per game) out, the Cowboys struggled through the first half. Boise State’s Anthony Drmic scored 13 of his 21 points in the game’s first 20 minutes. Meanwhile, UW senior guard Derrious Gilmore -- as he did in the Cowboys’ loss to Colorado State one week ago -- carried the Pokes. He scored 15 first-half points and finished by tying his career high of 26. UW trailed 37-19 at the half.
“Let’s start with the first half,” Shyatt said. “The coach made some bad mistakes in the first half. I take full credit for us being down. I take full credit for us being down 18. I regret some of those mistakes. But I thought our team really dug in during the second half and showed what they are all about.”
The Cowboys started the second half on a spurt. First, McManamen found the net, followed by freshman guard Josh Adams, who finished with 13 second-half points.
By the time Washington – who had 18 points and 15 rebounds -- hit a 3-pointer with 13 minutes, 24 seconds to play, the Cowboys had cut the 18-point Boise lead to 11 (45-34). But Boise State’s Mikey Thompson quashed the run with a 3-pointer on the following possession.
"You knew Wyoming, they’re not going to go away,” Boise State coach Leon Rice said. “They were undefeated. They’ve been down before. They were down at Illinois State and they came back and won. We knew they would come out and be aggressive. And they did.”
The Cowboys chiseled Boise's 11-point lead down to single digits, pulling within five points (66-61) with 18 seconds left.
“We’ve been there before,” Gilmore said. “We’ve done it. We’ve shown it can be done. We just stayed together … We just never gave up. We continuously fight.”
It wasn't until Marks sank two free throws in the final seconds that UW’s shot at a comeback without Nance Jr. was completely out of the question.
“We have embraced adversity all year and we will continue to do that – whether or not anyone else understands that, I’m not interested,” Shyatt said. “I’m only interested in our team.”