Wyoming Reaches MW Final for Second Time Ever with 71-66 OT Win over Boise State
By W.G. Ramirez
Associated Press, Special to TheMW.com
LAS VEGAS - Wyoming entered the Mountain West Tournament looking to change its fortunes.
Five losses in the last six conference tournament games didn't exactly inspire confidence. Well, now the Co
wboys are a win away from a title.
Josh Adams scored 27 points and Larry Nance Jr. added 20 to lead Wyoming to a 71-66 overtime victory over No. 25 Boise State in the Mountain West Conference tournament semifinals Friday night.
"I'm feeling pretty good, but the best stat is 2-0 in the Mountain West tournament," said Adams, a junior. "Not many people had faith we could do anything here. Now we're winding up in the championship game. It's just a credit to this team and how hard we've worked, how we stuck to our principles, stuck together as a team.
Wyoming (24-9) will meet either second-seeded San Diego State or No. 3 seed Colorado State in Saturday's championship game at the Thomas and Mack Center.
Riley Grabau and Derek Cooke Jr. each scored four points in overtime, and Jason McManamen's 3-point bank shot helped seal the win for Wyoming.
Grabau finished with 13 points and was 8 for 8 from the free-throw line for the Cowboys.
Wyoming was the only Mountain West team Boise State had not beaten this season, as the teams met just once in the regular season, a 65-54 win by the Cowboys, in Laramie, Wyoming.
"I'm just happy for these five guys that are a year ahead of me that I've had a chance and privilege to spend three years with," Adams said. "I know they've wanted this for a long time, worked their tails off for it. I'm glad to be a part of it and I'm glad I could do something to propel them to that spot and help out a little bit."
It marked the first Mountain West tournament semifinal to go into overtime, and sixth in tournament history, with three of them involving Wyoming.
Boise State (25-8) missed four of six attempts from the field and was outscored 14-9 in the extra period.
Derrick Marks, the Mountain West player of the year, led the Broncos with 17, while Nick Duncan had 11.
Early in the game, it was Adams who turned the arena into his personal playground. If he wasn't calming his teammates while running the floor, he was wreaking havoc for the Broncos by providing highlight clips with his glitzy passes or aerial moves to the hoop.
Trailing by 12 with 3:08 left in the first half, Adams scored seven points during a 10-0 run down the stretch - including a two-handed breakaway jam with 35.8 seconds left and a nifty layup to the left side of the basket in transition with 3.6 seconds left - to pull the Cowboys within two at halftime, 38-36.
While the Broncos struggled to find their form, the Cowboys were sparked by six straight points from Nance, and opened the second half on a 14-6 run to pull ahead by six with 11:28 left in the game.
"We went into halftime, after Josh made one of his many outstanding runs in the game, down two," Nance said. "The momentum was swinging. We could feel it swinging."
Nevertheless, Boise State turned the tables and held the Cowboys to just one field goal the rest of regulation and tied the game at 57 with 8 seconds left, when James Webb III tipped in a rebound.
Each team made 13 field goals in the first half, but combined to make just 13 altogether in the second half.
Wyoming: If the Cowboys win the tournament title, it'll be the school's first Mountain West championship in any sport.
Boise State: The loss snapped Boise State's seven-game win streak. The Broncos went into the game having won 15 of their last 16 games.
Willie Ramirez is a Las Vegas-based freelance reporter and Southern Nevada correspondent for The Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter: @AP_WG