USU takes down conference-leading Cowboys

LOGAN – A strong defensive effort helped the Aggies defeat the University of Wyoming 56-44 and improve to 5-3 in conference Tuesday night in Logan. Led by the conference’s preseason player of the year Larry Nance Jr., the Cowboys had a 17-3 record and owned the top spot in the conference standings coming into the game.

“They had a tough night shooting,” head coach Stew Morrill said. “You’d like to think our defense was a part of it.”

Morrill said the win is encouraging and shows that his young, inexperienced team is getting better. Freshman forward David Collette said it shows the team “can play.”

“Don’t count us out by any means at all,” he said.

Both teams struggled to score to start the game. More than halfway through the first half Nance had every one of the Cowboys’ eight points, but things changed for him after that. He was only able to score six more throughout the rest of the game.

“He’s got a lot of skill,” Collette said. “I think we just executed our gameplan and contained him well.”

With less than two minutes remaining in the half the Aggies had built a nine-point lead, but the Cowboys rallied and brought it back within four. With just seconds to play, Collette stole the ball from Wyoming’s Josh Adams and dunked it on the other end of the court, leaving the Cowboys with almost no time to work with. As time expired, Wyoming’s Riley Grabau sunk a near full-court shot that cut the lead to three at the half.

Collette said despite the buzzer beater, the team was “hyped and excited” at the half.

“The focus was just coming out and putting it on them early in the second half, hitting them hard,” he said.

That’s exactly what the Aggies did. Thanks in part to two big blocks by Collette, they held Wyoming scoreless through the first five minutes and scored nine points of their own, giving themselves a 38-26 lead. USU had its biggest lead of the night later in the half. They were up 14 with less than seven minutes to go.

That’s when Wyoming made their final push. A 3-pointer from Grabau helped Wyoming score seven-straight points. Their run ended when USU junior Chris Smith made a 3-point shot of his own.

“We needed momentum to finish the game out. I was kinda praying on that one,” Smith said of his shot.

For the second game in a row, USU won the rebounding battle. They outrebounded Wyoming 32-28.

“We’re just tired of getting yelled at,” Smith said with a laugh. “We just want to rebound.”

Collette led the Aggies with 16 points. Smith added 13. Grabau had 16 for the Cowboys.

The Aggies will travel to San Diego State to take on the preseason conference favorite Saturday night.

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