The Wyoming men’s basketball team won its third straight game to start the season Monday afternoon with a 77-65 defeat of South Dakota State at the Cayman Islands Classic.
The Cowboys will play Louisiana, which beat Iowa 80-71 Monday, at 12:30 p.m. Mountain Time on Tuesday (FloHoops streaming) in the three-day tournament.
Wyoming trailed the Jackrabbits with just over 7 minutes to play but closed the game on a 21-8 run. South Dakota State had a 23-8 run of its own earlier in the second half.
“Most of the things I preached about in the huddle were just staying together and staying the course,” Wyoming head coach Allen Edwards said in a post-game interview. “Our shots weren’t falling for us tonight, but we got the ball moving, and then obviously there were a lot of fouls. So we went from trying to be more of a 3-point shooting team to now trying to get to the free-throw line and attacking.”
Wyoming was 8-of-30 from behind the arc (26.8 percent). The Pokes entered the game having made 10 or more 3s in 15 of their last 17 games.
The Cowboys were led by Hayden Dalton’s game-high 18 points on 7-of-12 shooting. Justin James led Wyoming with seven rebounds to go with 16 points. Dalton has averaged 23.3 points per game to start the season.
Senior guard Alexander Aka Gorski (ankle) and sophomore forward Andrew Moemeka (concussion) made their season debuts in the game. Aka Gorski scored six points of 2-of-3 3-point shooting, and Moemeka had four points and five rebounds.
“We’ve been banged up pretty much this preseason,” Edwards said. “But one thing both of those guys bring to the table is a little bit of experience. Drew has been in the program for three years now, and Gorski is a fifth-year senior. So just getting them back out there and just understanding how to play really helped us.”
The Jackrabbits turned the ball over 23 times in the game to Wyoming’s 17.
The Cowboys held South Dakota State’s leading scorer Mike Daum to 10 points on 2-of-12 shooting. Daum, whose parents were both athletes at Wyoming, averaged 25.1 points per game last season, third in the nation.
“Well, obviously he’s a really good basketball player,” Edwards said. “And we really wanted to take ... the 3-point shot away from him as well, but he actually got a few of them off. We did a lot of switching, a lot of rotation on him as well.”
The tournament, held at George Town, Grand Cayman, is the furthest Wyoming has played from home since playing in Hawaii in 2006-07.
The Jackrabbits (3-2), who reached the NCAA Tournament last season as a 16 seed, face Iowa on Tuesday.