LARAMIE — The last time the Wyoming and Colorado State men’s basketball teams met on the court, the Cowboys appeared to be in position to snatch a comeback rivalry win from the Rams at their place. Instead, Prentiss Nixon hit a 3-pointer with 3.6 seconds remaining to give Colorado State a thrilling Border War win and a series sweep.
Don’t think that the Cowboys have forgotten.
“Last year, that one really hurt, the second one there, when we should have won that one and they hit the game winner on us,” Wyoming senior forward Hayden Dalton said. “That one really, I mean, I think a lot of us are still feeling that and remember that. And we watched that on film, and the coaches kind of reminded us what happened last year, and none of us forgot. So we’ll be ready to play.”
Wyoming gets a chance for its first Border War win under head coach Allen Edwards on Saturday when the Cowboys host the Rams (2 p.m., CBS Sports Network).
“I always look forward to these games,” Dalton said. “I mean, I look forward to every game. Every game is fun and exciting, but these ones mean a little something for me, especially … being from Colorado. So I just love playing against CSU, especially, just because of the rivalry. It’s always a great, exciting game. The fans are always (great), whether it’s there or here, it’s just crazy.”
Colorado State also got the best of the Laramie matchup last year, beating the Cowboys for the first time since 2014.
The Rams’ second-place finish in the Mountain West last year was keyed by the duo of Gian Clavell and Emmanuel Omogbo, both of whom were seniors.
“They lost a lot from last year, but what’s great about what (head coach Larry) Eustachy does is the culture is still there,” Edwards said. “They still play hard. They’re still tough. And guys have just stepped up. Prentiss has stepped up and become like Clavell, more of a scorer. The kid (Jeremiah) Paige is definitely playing better as well.
“And the kid (Anthony) Bonner has been playing better. And then (Nico) Carvacho, he’s just a hard-playing dude. So you look at it and say, that’s still a Larry Eustachy team.”
Nixon now leads the Rams, who are last in the Mountain West in shooting percentage, with 18 points per game.
“To be honest with you, he was a tremendous, I guess you could say, sidekick to Clavell last year,” Edwards said. “But now he’s kind of the lead guy and maybe Paige or Bonner is the sidekick to him. But for his size, he’s pretty good at getting his own shot as well, shoot it deep, herky jerky, and then to me, if you’re not there and he has an open shot, that thing is pretty good looking.”
The Rams have gotten off to a 9-9 start this season, 2-3 in conference play. Wyoming is back at .500 in the Mountain West after a loss Wednesday at New Mexico.
“I think we just need to find that consistency piece of, whether at home or on the road, playing the same way we always play,” Dalton said. “Moving the ball on offense and then playing as a team on defense and following the scouting report. I think our last two away games, we kind of got a little bit away from those things.”
The Pokes won’t have to worry about a road environment Saturday, though. Wyoming is 77-36 against the Rams in Laramie and 133-94 in he series all-time. The Cowboys had won five straight meetings before last season.
To the dismay of some Wyoming fans, the teams’ matchup north of the state line this season takes place before UW students return from Christmas break. It’s one of three significant home Mountain West games the Cowboys host during the break, along with San Diego State and Boise State.
“Some of us were talking about that, how we wish this one was scheduled, especially the CSU game, when the students were here,” Dalton said. “Just so we could have the students, because they’re always awesome. But I mean, they scheduled it when they did. So I think our fans are still going to show up and fill the place. But it would be nice to have the students.”
Junior forward Jordan Naughton will continue to sit with a back injury, Edwards said. Junior guard Justin James did not practice Friday because of a groin injury he suffered against Boise State, but Edwards expects him to play. Despite the injury, James scored a career-high 31 points in Wyoming’s loss at New Mexico.