LARAMIE — Coming against a Pac-12 team, Wyoming’s win Nov. 13 against Oregon State was significant enough. But the fact that it came on the road could be an even bigger factor for the Cowboys moving forward.
The Pokes hadn’t won a game away from the Arena-Auditorium since Feb. 4 at Air Force.
“Whenever we go on the road, we try to get as many victories as we can on the road, because in the history of Wyoming, we’ve always had a good home record,” junior Justin James said. “We always do good at home, especially last year. So (head coach Allen) Edwards made an emphasis about when we go on the road, we definitely need to take away of those away games, and we definitely did that last game.”
The Cowboys get another shot at winning away from home when they begin play Monday in the Cayman Islands Classic against South Dakota State (12:30 p.m., FloHoops streaming).
“Even though it’s not really home crowd, away crowd, we’re not on our home floor, and we’re playing against other competition,” James said. “So playing against other teams in different conferences and just continuing to grow more as a team and hopefully win some more games.”
The Cowboys hosted South Dakota State last year before the Jackrabbits made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament as Summit League Tournament champions. Wyoming won that meeting 77-67.
South Dakota State is led by Mike Daum, whose mother and father played basketball and football at Wyoming. Daum led the Jackrabbits, who are coming off a loss to Kansas, with 25.1 points and 8.1 rebounds per game last season and has averaged 21.3 points and 10.8 rebounds per game this season.
“Very good player,” Wyoming senior Alan Herndon said. “Very solid guy. It’s kind of like Hayden that he’s just skilled and can do it all. We’re definitely going to have to key in on him, try to limit his effect on the game as much as he has.”
The Cowboys will face either Iowa or Louisiana in their second game. Cincinnati, UAB, Richmond and Buffalo are also competing in the tournament. The championship game will be played Wednesday.
“I think it will be (good) just to be able to go out there with guys, get out the country, just spend a little time together,” Herndon said. “But at the end of the day, we’re there on a business trip, and we’re there to handle some things. So we can’t have too much fun.”
Herndon was as crucial as anyone to Wyoming’s win at Oregon State. In the second half, he had 11 of his 16 points and five blocks as Wyoming turned a six-point deficit into a 12-point lead.
“Having Al on the floor is just a huge benefit,” James said. “He just covers up so many mistakes that our defense makes, just because he’s such a great defender. So having him back there really helps our defense and our offense in transition.”
Edwards has discussed getting Herndon to play as consistently on offense as he does on defense. Herndon scored 16 or more points just five times last season.
“Coach was just telling me to keep being aggressive, keep shooting the ball and make sure that I was where I needed to be defensively,” Herndon said. “Coach Edwards always tells me if I can’t take the charge, just go up there and try and alter the shot. I was able to get my hand on a few of them.
“... The matchups that we had for the big guys, I definitely took that on as a challenge. Those guys were very good down low, so I just took that on and was fired up the whole time.”
After a limited season opener, James looked more like the player predicted by Mountain West media to be an all-conference player this season. He scored 19 points in 29 minutes at Oregon State.
James has been battling a left ankle injury most of the fall. He spent much of the season opener on an exercise bike.
“It was definitely feeling better,” James said. “It didn’t (affect me) during the game, but I was definitely going into the game a little rusty, only having a couple practices under my belt. But I’m getting back to the groove of things this week, and I’ll be fine next week.”
That’s good news for the Cowboys, who were led in scoring last year by James, the conference’s reigning sixth man of the year.
“It’s always great to have that guy back,” Herndon said. “The abilities that he has and then being that 6-7 frame, just being able to drive to the basket, maybe get some fouls and also being able to kick it out to us is great. It adds another dynamic to our team.”