(Laramie, Wyo.) – Junior guard Riley Grabau posted 17 points and junior forward Larry Nance Jr. chipped in 14 to guide the University of Wyoming men’s basketball team to a thrilling 68-62 upset of No. 5 San Diego State on Tuesday night in the Arena-Auditorium. The Cowboys (15-9, 6-5 MW) earned their first upset of a top-five opponent since 1998, while breaking a 20-game winning streak for the Aztecs (21-2, 10-1 MW).
“I am so proud of the guys on this team,” UW head coach Larry Shyatt said. “I told them after the Vegas game the other day that there may not be many people who will tell you the truth, but I’m going to tell you the truth, ‘You’re a heck of a team. You compete. You’ve been in five last possession games this year, and won three of those. You’re winners and somewhere there is a rainbow coming.’ I didn’t know it was coming tonight, but thank heaven it did.”
The Pokes led by as many as 16 points midway through the second half, thanks to multiple dunks from Nance and fellow junior forward Derek Cooke Jr., but the Aztecs refused to go quietly. SDSU cut the lead to single digits with just over four minutes remaining and clawed within four points with 40 seconds left. A free throw from senior guard Nathan Sobey and one from redshirt senior guard Jerron Granberry would be the only points scored the rest of the game, as the Cowboys held the Aztecs off the scoreboard to pull the upset. Wyoming held SDSU to its third-lowest point total this season and is now one of only two schools (Wichita State) in the nation to not allow 75 points this season.
“I thought for the first three quarters of this game we had great poise on offense,” Shyatt said. “We shifted the ball left, we shifted it right and we made them run around a little bit. To sum it up, I think we took a lot less risks tonight that San Diego State did. It ended up that San Diego State took a lot of risks on defense, but we were able to find open people — sometimes on ugly possessions — but we would find people open for a layup or a dunk.”
Grabau’s night came on 5-of-9 from the field and 3-of-6 from deep. He also went a perfect 4-of-4 at the free throw line, as he added four assists. He has now made three or more treys in five-straight games and 35-consecutive free throws dating back to Nov. 22. Nance Jr. contributed 14 points, six rebounds and three blocks, as he reached double figures for the 20th time this season. Redshirt junior guard Charles Hankerson Jr. and Sobey both added nine points apiece.
The Cowboys shot 58 percent (22-of-38) from the field for its 12th game this season over the 50-percent mark and added 42 percent (5-of-12) from deep. SDSU connected on 38 percent (22-of-58) and 24 percent (5-of-21), respectively. The Aztecs earned a big 38-25 advantage on the boards, including 21-4 in offensive boards, and 26-2 in second-chance points. Wyoming had 13 assists to seven for SDSU.
The Aztecs took an early lead thanks to a 1-of-7 start from the field for Wyoming and built the advantage to as many as seven in the first five minutes. A switch to a zone slowed down SDSU’s offense and the Cowboys used a 6-0 spurt to tie the contest at 14-14 midway through the half. The Aztecs and Pokes would be tied three more times over the next six minutes, before the Cowboys closed the period on a 10-1 run to go into halftime up 32-23.
The Cowboys shot 52 percent (11-of-21) from the field in the first half and added 67 percent (4-of-6) beyond the arc, while holding the Aztecs to 29 percent (8-of-27) and just one make on seven three-point attempts. SDSU earned a 22-11 advantage on the boards, but trailed 6-1 in assists and committed 10 turnovers to just five for the Cowboys. Grabau had 13 points in the first half, thanks in part to three treys, while Nance added six points and two blocks.
The Cowboys started the second half with a nine-point advantage, but quickly built it to double digits thanks to back-to-back thunderous dunks from Cooke that Nance assisted on. The Aztecs briefly cut the lead to single digits midway through the half, but Wyoming pushed the lead back to 16, its largest of the game, with eight minutes to go to set up the stretch run.
Wyoming continues its season at San Jose State on Saturday at 3 p.m. MT.