Back-to-back wins continue to elude Wyoming.
The Cowboys went back and forth with Utah State for the better part of 31 minutes inside the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, but the Aggies pulled away for a 76-59 win Wednesday night. Wyoming defeated Colorado State over the weekend, giving the Cowboys their sixth chance to start their first winning streak of the season, but one of the Mountain West’s contenders eventually took control at home.
Justin James cut Utah State’s lead to 51-50 with 10 minutes left before the Aggies went on an 18-7 run over the next 7:41 to create double-digit separation with 2:08 remaining. Wyoming hit just three of its last 13 shots from the field, including just one of its final eight on its way to its fourth loss in its last five games.
Utah State, which swept the season series with Wyoming, remained tied for second place in the MW standings and stayed just two games behind No. 6 Nevada in the loss column with its eighth win in nine games. It won’t get any easier for Wyoming this weekend with the Wolf Pack set to visit the Arena-Auditorium on Saturday.
James led all scorers with 26 points on 9 of 18 shooting in a matchup of the conference’s top two scorers. Sam Merrill, who came in averaging less than a point fewer per game than James, paced Utah State with 19 points. Merrill knocked down four of the Aggies’ 10 3-pointers.
Merrill got plenty of help from Quinn Taylor (13 points), Neemias Queta (14) and Abel Porter (11), who combined for 38 points and helped Utah State shoot 65 percent from the field in the second half and 49 percent for the game. Nobody else for Wyoming reached double figures.
Wyoming committed just 11 turnovers, its fewest against a MW opponent all season, but Queta helped Utah State control the boards. The Aggies’ 6-foot-11 center recorded a double-double with 10 rebounds as Utah State finished plus-11 (35-24) on the glass with nine offensive rebounds.
James hit five of his first seven shots on his way to 12 first-half points, highlighting a half in which Wyoming shot 60.9 percent from the field. Hunter Thompson scored all seven of his points in the first half, including a jumper that sparked a 12-2 run to draw the Cowboys even at 34.
Utah State made seven 3s in the opening 20 minutes, but Wyoming held the Aggies to just four other field goals and went to the break tied at 37 before going cold down the stretch.