The shots weren’t falling Tuesday night for the Wyoming men’s basketball team, and the Cowboys fell for the third time in 15 days, losing 80-64 at South Carolina.
The Pokes shot a season-worst 24.0 percent from 3-point range, and their six made 3-pointers tied a season low. Wyoming had its third-worst shooting night from the field this season (33.9 percent) against the Gamecocks, who reached last year’s Final Four.
“What I try to tell our guys, even sometimes within the battle, you may feel like you don’t come out on the right end,” Wyoming head coach Allen Edwards said. “But was there an opportunity for growth?”
Wyoming (6-3) has now lost three of its last five games, dropping the Cayman Islands Classic championship game to Cincinnati and a road game against Denver. Those losses have come by an average of 17 points.
“I told our guys, we can’t let this one linger,” Edwards said. “Again, I told them sometimes within a loss, you can learn from it. ... But what we did, from coming out of Cincinnati, we let that loss linger too much to where now, we’ve got to let it hurt, but now we’ve got to move on and get ready for a really good Pacific team coming into our home.”
Justin James recorded a double-double for the second straight game and led Wyoming with 20 points and 12 rebounds, both of which were game highs. Three other Cowboys scored in double digits: Lou Adams with 12 points, Hayden Dalton with 12 and Alexander Aka Gorski with 10.
The Cowboys had a strong defensive first half, holding the Gamecocks to 36.4 shooting from the floor and allowing just three 3-pointers on 14 attempts (21.4) percent. But the Pokes themselves were 1-of-13 from the 3-point line in the first 20 minutes.
Wyoming took a lead at 8-6 that would be its last, but the Cowboys tied the game at 20-all with an 8-0 run and remained within single digits until the last bucket of the first half.
Wyoming scored eight of the first 10 points out of the intermission to get back within four, but a quick 9-0 run by the Gamecocks established a double-digit lead that never faltered. At one point, South Carolina led by as many as 19, but Wyoming whittled that to 11 with a 10-2 burst. South Carolina shot 55.2 percent from the field in the second half, including 55.6 percent from 3.
“I thought in the first half we did a great job locking up on defense,” Edwards said. “But I thought the physicality kind of wore on us in the second half when you look at the stats. And then I thought it was a 5-minute within the second half to where we ran our 3 defense, and they banged home a couple 3s, and it kind of extended the lead.
“But what I was really pleased about was in our huddles, guys kept saying, ‘Stay the course. Keep fighting. Keep fighting.’ And again, sometimes, at the end of the day, with all the fight, you come out on the wrong end.”
South Carolina head coach Frank Martin is a mentor of Edwards’, having coached the second-year Wyoming coach when he was a pre-teen and as a high school freshman.
“I was impressed with a few guys on their team,” Edwards said. “But when you look at some of the guys on the floor, you look at them playing, you say sometimes, ‘You know what? That’s a Frank Martin kid.’”
The Gamecocks will come to Laramie next season.
The Cowboys return home for a game Saturday against 5-4 Pacific. The Tigers defeated Wyoming 73-65 last season in Stockton, California.