LARAMIE — The Cowboys got a rare opportunity Tuesday night: to see what life without Alan Herndon is like.
Herndon has not missed a game since his freshman year, and that didn’t change in the Cowboys’ loss to New Mexico. But because of illness, the senior forward played just 7 minutes, his fewest since that freshman season. In his absence, Wyoming allowed more points than it ever had to a visiting team at the Arena-Auditorium, losing 119-14.
Wyoming head coach Allen Edwards has talked frequently about Herndon’s importance to the Cowboys, especially on defense. Herndon, who has started all but one of Wyoming’s games the past three seasons, is third all-time in program history with 173 blocks.
Tuesday, New Mexico shot 61.7 percent from the field, the worst Wyoming has allowed since 2013. The Lobos scored 38 points in the paint and, as a team, Wyoming had fewer blocks than Herndon averages per game.
“At the end of the day, and again, New Mexico won the basketball game, but Herndon doesn’t get a lot of credit all the time, but that’s what he does for us,” Edwards said. “He’s a defender. He’s a rim protector. He’s a position guy. And when you lose a piece like that, it can be damaging.
“Obviously, he tried to give it a go, and he was fine (Monday). Woke up this morning and was under the weather. But, again, guys had opportunities as well. I thought Andrew (Moemeka) came in (and) he played well today. I thought (Austin) Mueller came in and played well today. I just thought we got caught up about making it all about offense.”
Herndon played just 2 minutes after halftime Saturday.
“Obviously, without Al, it hurt us,” Wyoming guard Justin James said. “Because Al, I feel like he’s the best defender in the league in the paint. We’ve just got to get better.”
Wyoming was already down one post presence with junior Jordan Naughton still sidelined by a back injury. Edwards has said that the team is proceeding as if Naughton will not return this season.
Moemeka started in Herndon’s place, making his first start since last year’s College Basketball Invitational, but he fouled out with more than 14 minutes to play. Moemeka scored four points on 2-of-3 shooting with one rebound and one turnover.
Senior forward Hayden Dalton scored 15 first-half points to lead all scorers, but played only 11 minutes after halftime because of foul trouble. Mueller scored a career-high five points, hitting a pair of jump shots, but forward Buddah Jones did not play.
“It was a little tough,” Dalton said. “That’s hard when we’re missing guys. I mean, we had guys step up tonight, but we never want to play without our guys. But I think Austin Mueller, he stepped up and played well tonight.”
One sick player does not a 119-point night make. Still, without Herndon, the Cowboys struggled to accumulate any stops on defense.
“We were trying to outscore them, versus playing what we consider our brand of basketball,” Edwards said. “Yes, we want to play with pace, but at the same time, we never want to be in a hurry. And then I thought obviously with the score going up and down, then it became, ‘Well, we have to (play fast) now,’ because of putting ourselves back in position to try to win the basketball game.”
The Cowboys did make nearly 58 percent of their shots, including their last nine, but they were unable to pull off the comeback.
Adams’ big night
Lou Adams scored 31 points to lead all scorers Tuesday, playing for the first time since injuring his ankle during a shoot-around before the Pokes’ game last week at San Diego State.
Adams hit his first six shots and shot 11-of-15 from the field, adding six free throws on 11 attempts.
“I guess my teammates put me in the right spot,” he said, “but despite the 31, I’d rather give it to one of their players and get the win.”
Adams hadn’t scored in double digits since Jan. 27 and hadn’t had a 20-point night since Jan. 3 at Nevada.
Adams said afterward his ankle felt fine. It looked plenty healthy when he slammed home a dunk after his own block created a transition possession, earning a highlight tweet from ESPN.
“There wasn’t no doubt at all,” Adams said. “The ankle’s 100 percent right now. I don’t really care. It would have to be broken for me not to play these last three games.”
TUESDAY: Wyoming fell 119-114 at home to New Mexico, the highest-scoring game in Arena-Auditorium history.
SHORT ON BIGS: The Cowboys were without Jordan Naughton (back), and Allen Herndon (illness) played just 7 minutes, while Hayden Dalton and Andrew Moemeka battled foul trouble.
HE SAID IT: “Obviously, without Al, it hurt us. Because Al, I feel like he’s the best defender in the league in the paint. We’ve just got to get better.” — Wyoming junior Justin James.
NEXT: Wyoming at Fresno State, 8 p.m., Saturday.
New Mexico 119, Wyoming 114
Wednesday, at Laramie
NEW MEXICO (119): Joe Furstinger 4-5 1-1 9, Chris McNeal 3-8 10-12 17, Antino Jackson 1-3 0-0 3, Makuach Maluach 3-7 12-15 20, Dane Kuiper 3-4 2-2 11, Sam Logwood 11-12 2-3 24, Jachal Simmons 0-2 0-0 0, Vladimir Pinchuk 0-1 1-4 1, Troy Simmons 8-11 4-6 24, Anthony Mathis 4-7 0-0 10. Totals 37-60 32-43 119.
WYOMING (114): Andrew Moemeka 2-3 0-0 4, Hayden Dalton 7-14 2-2 21, Justin James 6-12 10-15 23, Cody Kelley 3-4 0-0 7, Hunter Maldonado 0-3 2-2 2, Nyaires Redding 2-4 2-2 7, Alexander Aka Gorski 3-6 5-6 12, Alan Herndon 1-1 0-0 2, Austin Mueller 2-2 0-0 5, Lou Adams 11-15 6-11 31. Totals 37-64 27-38 114.
3-point goals: NM 13-27 (T. Simmons 4-6, Kuiper 3-4, Maluach 2-3, Mathis 2-4, Jackson 1-2, McNeal 1-5, Furstinger 0-1, J. Simmons 0-2) UW 13-23 (Dalton 5-8, Adams 3-4, Kelley 1-1, Mueller 1-1, James 1-2, Redding 1-2, Aka Gorski 1-4, Maldonado 0-1). Rebounds: NM 34 (Logwood 9) UW 28 (Dalton 6, James 5). Assists: NM 17 (McNeal 6) UW 19 (Dalton 4, James 4, Adams 4). Attendance: 4,321.