Mar 15, 2012 - By Craig Blumenshine, Staff WriterLARAMIE -- It's been three years since the Wyoming Cowboys have played in college basketball's post-season, and nine years since Wyoming has managed a post-season win.
That all changed Wednesday night.
Under first year coach Larry Shyatt, the Wyoming Cowboys beat North Dakota State University (17-14, 9-9 in the Summit League) 78-75 before a small but enthusiastic spring break crowd at the Arena-Auditorium in the first-round of the College Basketball Invitational.
The win was the 21st of the season for Wyoming (21-11, 6-8 Mountain West Conference), and allows the Pokes to advance to the second-round of the CBI next Monday night. Wyoming will play Washington State from the Pac-12 Conference in Pullman. Game time is set for 8 p.m. MDT.
The Cougars (16-16, 7-11 Pac-12) advanced to the second-round of the CBI with a 89-75 win at San Francisco Tuesday.
At the AA Wednesday, power forward Leonard Washington led Wyoming with 22 points and 11 rebounds, his fourth double-double in the last five games. Francisco Cruz scored 14 and Adam Waddell added 13.
But it was Wyoming's inconsistent play at both ends of the court that tempered Shyatt after the game.
"We didn't guard as well as I would have liked, and we turned it over too much, but I told the guys in the locker room after the game that I will never complain about a win," Shyatt said.
The 75 NDSU points were the most a Cowboy team has given up this season. Wyoming committed 17 turnovers compared to 11 by the Bison.
The game was tied at 37-37 after the first half, but a 12-2 run to start the second half gave Wyoming momentum.
With just under 14 minutes to play, Washington's huge dunk off an offensive rebound and a Francisco Cruz free throw gave Wyoming its biggest lead of the night at 55-44.
But with 7:36 left in the game the Bison from Fargo, who also are playing in the middle of their spring break week, had climbed all the way back to tie the game at 61-61.
"I want to give North Dakota State credit for playing a good offensive game. They have a good young team. They had some injuries this year, but they took the best team in their league, South Dakota State, who is in the NCAA Tournament, to overtime and they beat some good teams. When they've had all their pieces they are a very good team," Shayatt said.
The Pokes never gave up the lead, but a 3-point prayer from Bison Dylan Hale that banked in from well beyond the top of they key cut UW's lead to 76-75 with 3 seconds still on the clock.
Wyoming won the game at the free-throw line, the Pokes outscored the Bison 29-14 from the charity stripe, and junior guard Luke Martinez made two free-throws with 2 seconds left. NDSU inbounded the ball and the Bison's leading scorer TreyVonn Wright who had 15 in the game let one last 3-point shot sail towards the basket. But his prayer was long, and Wyoming had the win.
The Pokes will rest for a couple of days and then get ready for their next game.
"It will be a challenge going to Pullman. We will have to play much better defensively, and we will have to do a much better job of taking care of the ball. I am going to give the guys off the next couple of days. They can come in and shoot and get a lift if they want, but I think it is more important for them to have some time to let their bodies rest, and to get away from the head coach for a couple days. We'll get back together on Saturday and have two days to get ready for Washington State," Shyatt said.
NDSU 37 38 -- 75
UW 37 41 -- 78
North Dakota (75) -- TrayVonn Wright 3 (3) 0-0 15, Marshall Bjorklund 6 2-3 14, Dylan Hale 0 (1) 3, Lawrence Alexander 3 6-11 12, Taylor Braun 3 (2) 1-3 13, Mike Felt 3 (1) 1-5 10, Drew Lindberg 0 2-2 2, Jordan Aaberg 2 2-2 4. Totals 20 (7) 14-22 75.
Wyoming (78) -- Leonard Washington 7 8-13 22, Adam Waddell 5 3-5 13, JayDee Luster 0 4-4 4, Luke Martinez 1 (1) 4-6 10, Francisco Cruz 2 (2) 4-7 14, Arthur Bouedo 0 (1) 2-2 5, Derrious Gilmore 0 (1) 2-2 5, Larry Nance Jr. 2 4-4 8, Rob Watsabaugh 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 (5) 29-41 78.
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