LARAMIE — Wyoming looked like it was on its way to a third straight loss.
Richmond, the latest team to feast on the Cowboys’ diminutive rotation, had an eight-point lead at halftime of the consolation game of the Fort Myers Tip-Off on Wednesday in Fort Myers, Florida. Wyoming had no answer for 6-foot-9, 240-pound center Grant Golden (career-high 33 points), and the Spiders stretched their advantage to double digits three times in the first seven minutes of the second half.
That’s when the Cowboys did what they’ve done all season.
Justin James got going with 19 of his season-high 29 points in the final 20 minutes, the Cowboys neutralized Golden just enough, and Wyoming’s undersized lineup clawed back for a 68-66 win to split its trip to Florida. The Cowboys stormed back two days earlier to cut a 22-point deficit to one possession before ultimately falling to eventual tournament champion Boston College.
In its third game without bigs Jordan Naughton (knee) and Hunter Thompson (concussion protocol) last Friday, Wyoming got as close as one against Niagara and had a shot at a tying 3-pointer in the final seconds. Both of the Cowboys’ wins have been of the comeback variety.
The latest has Wyoming returning to Laramie with some confidence rather than its longest losing streak of the season.
“Whether it’s watching film or whether it’s practice, I think the energy has been great,” Wyoming coach Allen Edwards said on radio following Wednesday’s win. “Just feeding that positive energy into them to go out there and just complete at a high level and play as hard as they can, and I thought we did a better job again in the second half. We’ve just got to put more of a 40-minute game together regardless of the injuries.”
Wyoming will have some of its size back its next time out to help with that. Thompson didn’t make the trip to Florida as a precaution after clearing concussion protocol late last week, but the Pine Bluffs native will suit up for the first time since the season opener when Wyoming travels to Evansville on Wednesday as part of the Mountain West-Missouri Valley Challenge.
The 6-11, 235-pound Thompson got his first career start against UC Santa Barbara on Nov. 6 and played 15 minutes before taking a shot to the jaw midway through the second half. He finished with 10 points and three rebounds.
His return will be a much-needed addition to a rotation that’s lacked girth with he and Naughton out. Brandon Porter (6-9) and Lwal Dung (6-7) have helped out, but most of the minutes on the interior have gone to 6-6 forward Austin Mueller, who’s started the last five games at center.