DENVER — The only thing Justin James remembered from Wyoming’s last game at Denver was that the Pioneers played in a cold venue.
His memory of Magness Arena, which also hosts Denver’s national-champion hockey team, won’t have to change much. The Cowboys shot an icy 29.7 percent in the first half Wednesday as they trailed by as many as 15 in an 88-78 loss to the Pioneers.
Denver (3-4) led Wyoming (5-2) for the final 38:23. It was Wyoming’s first loss to the Pioneers since 2013, ending a three-game win streak.
“We played F basketball,” James said. “That’s the worst game I feel like we’ve played all season. That’s the most selfish we’ve played all season, myself included, and we’ll be better in the future.”
James, whose 17 points led five Wyoming players in double figures, got the Cowboys out to an early lead with a 3-pointer, his first in Wyoming’s last four games. It would be the Cowboys’ last lead. The Pioneers caught fire immediately afterward, embarking on a 15-0 run.
The Pioneers hit eight of their first 11 shots from the field, with Jake Pemberton scoring 11 of their first 19 points on four-of-four shooting. The Summit League team shot 54.8 percent from the field in the first half and made the same number of 3-pointers, four, as Wyoming on half as many attempts (10 to 20).
“It was mainly just our lack of defense, our lack of edge,” James said. “... Myself included. My man (Pemberton), he started off with I think eight straight points. My team deserves better from me, and I will play better defense looking ahead. But yeah, we’ve just got to focus on the defensive end.
“It wasn’t really anything they do. We (knew) what they were going to do. Coaches scouted them perfectly. We just came out with a ‘we thought we were going to win’ mindset.”
Lou Adams gave Wyoming an early burst with eight points among the Pokes’ first 14, but Wyoming couldn’t get any closer than seven points in the first half after Denver’s initial run. A 4:04 scoring drought preceded Wyoming’s last bucket of the half, an Alexander Aka Gorski 3 that came with 2:19 to play before intermission.
Senior Hayden Dalton, who attended nearby Chaparral High School, was held scoreless in the first half, missing all seven of his shots, including five 3-pointers.
Dalton’s first bucket of the game, which came at 11:17 in the second period, got Wyoming within five points for the first time since 7-3. The Pokes would never get any closer.
Dalton and James, Wyoming’s two leading scorers, shot a combined 9-of-38 from the field (23.7 percent). The Cowboys as a whole shot 33.8 percent in the game and made 10-of-37 3-point attempts (27 percent). Magness Arena was the site of Wyoming’s last game without a made 3-pointer, 271 games ago on Nov. 25, 2009.
In Wyoming’s two losses this season, the Cowboys have started one down 23-9, a Cayman Islands Classic championship game loss to No. 12 Cincinnati, and another down 23-8.
“My thing to them is trusting the process,” head coach Allen Edwards said. “I told them, there will be times where you’re not going to come in at halftime up. You’re not going to come out blazing.
“But my thing is when that happens, are we reverting back to, ‘I’m going to do it’? Or are we going to defend and say, ‘We’re going to do it’? And I thought we kind of got back to a little ‘I’m going to do it.’”
The Cowboys turned the ball over a season-low five times Wednesday, while the Pioneers had 21 turnovers. But the Cowboys were outrebounded 47-27 and had just one second-chance point.
Adams (14), Dalton (12), Aka Gorski (12) and Alan Herndon (11) were also in double figures. Daniel Amigo (22 points, 10 rebounds) and Joe Rosga (18 and 12) each posted double-doubles for Denver.
The Cowboys hosted Denver last season, winning 82-70 behind 21 points from James. Wyoming hosts Drake on Saturday in the Mountain West-Missouri Valley Challenge.
WEDNESDAY: Wyoming fell 88-78 to Denver in the Cowboys’ second true road game of the season.
RECORDS: Pioneers (3-4) Cowboys (5-2).
HE SAID IT: “I told them, there will be times where you’re not going to come in at halftime up. You’re not going to come out blazing. But my thing is when that happens, are we reverting back to, ‘I’m going to do it’? Or are we going to defend and say, ‘We’re going to do it’? And I thought we kind of got back to a little ‘I’m going to do it.’” — head coach Allen Edwards.
Denver 88, Wyoming 78
Wednesday, at Denver
WYOMING (78): Alan Herndon 4-8 2-4 11, Hayden Dalton 3-17 4-4 12, Nyaires Redding 1-4 1-1 3, Justin James 6-19 3-6 17, Alexander Aka Gorski 3-8 4-4 12, Andrew Moemeka 0-1 0-0 0, Cody Kelley 3-6 1-2 9, Hunter Maldonado 0-1 0-0 0, Louis Adams 3-4 7-9 14. Totals 23-68 22-30 78.
DENVER (88): Jake Krafka 1-3 2-2 5, Daniel Amigo 9-12 4-6 22, Ade Murkey 1-3 0-0 2, Joe Rosga 5-10 8-8 18, Jake Pemberton 6-9 4-6 19, Elvin Rodriguez 0-2 0-0 0, Jake Holtzmann 5-8 6-6 20, Christian Mackey 1-2 0-0 2, Donoven Carlisle 0-0 1-2 1, Abiola Akintola 0-1 0-2 0. Totals 28-50 25-32 88.
3-point goals: UW 10-37 (Kelley 2-5, Aka Gorski 2-6, James 2-7, Dalton 2-10, Adams 1-2, Herndon 1-4, Maldonado 0-1, Redding 0-2) DU 7-15 (Holtzmann 4-5, Pemberton 3-5, Murkey 0-1, Krafka 0-2, Rosga 0-2). Rebounds: UW 27 (Dalton 8, Moemeka 5) DU 47 (Rosga 12, Amigo 10). Assists: UW 12 (Dalton 4) DU 16 (Rosga 5). Steals: UW 10 (Dalton 3) DU 1 (Murkey 1). Attendance: 1,662.