LARAMIE — First-year Eastern Washington head coach Shantay Legans joked on the sideline Tuesday night at the Arena-Auditorium that he should use a box-and-1 defense to shut down Wyoming senior forward Hayden Dalton.
"Dalton is all of that, boy," Legans said in the middle of the game. "He is so good. I wish I had a Dalton. That boy is bad."
Wyoming doesn't intend to get rid of its Dalton any time soon.
Wyoming trailed the Eagles by five with 14 seconds to play Tuesday, but Dalton hit a long 3-pointer, helped force a steal, and dunked the ball 7.6 seconds before a buzzer threatened to end Wyoming’s 18-game non-conference home winning streak.
Instead, Wyoming defeated the Eagles 93-88 in overtime.
"I mean, it’s a win," Wyoming junior Justin James said. "I’m not going to say we’re happy about it. I am kind of happy, but I’m not going to say we’re satisfied. That’s a game we should’ve lost, to be honest with you. We didn’t play good the first 40 minutes."
The Cowboys (8-3) overcame a 13-point deficit, the largest gap they’ve erased in a win since trailing UNLV by 17 in a comeback win Jan. 9, 2016.
Dalton scored 28 points, leading four Cowboys in double figures. Twenty-four of those points came after halftime.
"I was just really frustrated a couple times in the first half," Dalton said. "I caught it in the post, and I didn’t do anything with it. I think I might’ve turned it over one time or passed it out when I should’ve went in because I had it. And then I just told myself to be more aggressive."
The Eagles hit 15 3-pointers, the most Wyoming has allowed in a game since Fresno State hit 15 against the Pokes in February 2016.
"We were definitely late on some closeouts, but they were definitely knocking some down," James said. "They were definitely making some even with us on them. Even with (Alan Herndon) and H.D., they were shooting deep 3s. But credit to them. They’re a great shooting team. They should’ve won this game, but thank god they didn’t."
There were seven lead changes in the game, but none of them came in the first 28 minutes, as Eastern Washington commanded the lead early on.
The Eagles' 3-pointers dropped with ease in the first half, as Eastern Washington made its first three attempts to take an immediate 9-0 lead. The Eagles hit seven of their first 10 3s, making nine of 16 in the first half, compared to five of 11 2-pointers.
The Cowboys were able to chop a 12-point lead down to three as part of a string of six consecutive shots Wyoming sunk from the field. Dalton’s first two field goals got Wyoming within one possession for the first time since 3-0, but Bogdan Bliznyuk hit a 3-pointer in the closing seconds to send Eastern Washington in the half up 38-32. It was Bliznyuk’s third made 3 on four first-half attempts.
Junior Jordan Naughton scored five points in a span of 1:11 off the bench in the first half, more than he had scored in an entire game all season. Lou Adams also added five bench points in a 1:09 first-half stretch.
Wyoming tied the game for the first time with 8:52 to play in regulation on two Dalton free throws. The Cowboys took their first lead of the game on a Dalton bank shot with 7:23 to play. Eastern Washington responded immediately, though, hitting its 12th 3 of the game, before Lou Adams converted on a three-point play on the other end.
After the Eagles built a five-point lead on a 3-pointer from Cody Benzel, who had just checked in for the first time all game, the Eagles maintained a lead of between four and six points until Dalton's 3-pointer with 13.4 seconds to play. Following an Eastern Washington timeout, Dalton helped Herndon secure a steal, and Herndon passed it back to him for the dunk, sending the game into overtime tied at 78.
"Well, the plan was to aggressively try to steal the basketball, and if they call foul, let it be," Wyoming head coach Allen Edwards said. "Then that’s fine. They’ve got to go shoot. But actually, I think the kid might have even double-dribbled before stealing the basketball, and I think it obviously came off his knee."
The Cowboys never trailed in overtime and built a lead of as many as six points. But despite the thrilling comeback, Edwards was frustrated his team was even in that position.
"The conversation I had with our guys after the game, I hope it felt like a loss, to where it hurts a little bit," he said. "In efforts to help us understand what type of energy we need to come out and play with."
Wyoming’s 56 points in the paint were the program's most since scoring 58 on Jan. 2, 2010 against Adams State. The Cowboys last scored that many points in the paint against a Division-I team Nov. 21, 2009, against Boise State.
"Outside of (Benas Griciunas), the 7-footer, they pretty much were just playing with five guards," Edwards said. "... So with Naught, H.D. or Al, we tried to isolate them inside or kind of play off that."
The Eagles (3-8) have now lost five straight. The Cowboys and Eagles faced one another in the first round of the latest College Basketball Invitational, with Wyoming winning that game 91-81 at the Arena Auditorium. Wyoming went on to win the entire tournament.
James (20), Adams (12) and Herndon (18) were also in double figures. James had a double-double with 10 rebounds, a game high. Bliznyuk led all scorers with 30 points.
Herndon left the game twice with injuries, one to each leg. The second one was more serious, but Edwards said Wyoming would not know his status until Wednesday morning.
The Cowboys have reached overtime in two of their last three home games. They have won consecutive games for the first time since beginning the year with a four-game winning streak. Wyoming hosts Texas Southern on Saturday.