“The best thing was the games was in the 60s and not in the 80s, and that was the way we wanted to play,” Wyoming head coach Allen Edwards said. “I think there are things we can learn from when we go back and watch this game.”
With the Pokes down by four points with 1:45 left, free throws from senior Justin James and Jordan Naughton put the Pokes within reach of the victory. Dixie State missed a pair of free throws with 12.9 seconds left giving Young the opportunity to win the contest, as his double clutched three found nothing but net for the Wyoming win.
“The guys were looking at me on the floor before Dixie’s last missed free throw wondering if I wanted a timeout, but I think in those scenarios, unless you feel confident about running a specific play, you put the ball in your best player’s hands,” Edwards said. “A timeout I believe would have given them time to set up their full-court trap, so to me it was better to put it in J.J.’s (Justin James) hands. We put J.J. and (Hunter) Thompson in the ball screen, and then Thompson got the ball from J.J. and the best part of the play was Thompson made the extra pass to give Trace an opportunity to get a good look. Trace obviously did a great job putting the shot in.”
Young tied for the Wyoming lead in scoring with his 16 points. He went 6-of-10 from the field and 4-of-7 from behind the three-point line. He also grabbed six rebounds in his collegiate debut. James added 16 points, as he also added eight rebounds and four assists. Naughton added 12 points for a season best. He played a season-best 25 minutes.
“Obviously, having Trace (Young) out there tonight on his birthday and playing in his first game, he started the game and hit the game winner so he had a lot of pluses tonight,” Edwards said. “I didn’t think he played a perfect game, but I was really pleased with how hard he played. You’re going to make some mistakes when you play as hard as he did, but I would rather have that than a player being passive.”
Wyoming shot 42 percent from the field going 18-of-43 on the night, while holding Dixie State to 35 percent (19-of-55). Wyoming won the battle on the glass, 35-34 and scored 18 points in the paint. The Pokes also scored 12 points on the fast break for a season high.
The Pokes got off to a 6-0 lead on the Trailblazers in the opening minutes. Young tallied the first points of the game and his career with a triple. Wyoming held Dixie State 0-of-6 from the field to open the game.
The Trailblazers would take their first lead of the game on a jumper from Julien Ducree halfway through the half for a 14-13 advantage. Wyoming went scoreless for over four minutes until Brandon Porter hit a triple to take the lead back at 16-14 with 8:02 left in the frame.
Dixie State would battle and build a five-point advantage at 24-19 with 3:30 remaining in the half on an 8-0 run paced by a pair of three pointers. But James scored eight-straight points with three from the free throw line and a triple to give Wyoming a 27-24 advantage with just under two minutes left.
Young would add a three pointer for the Pokes to make it a 30-28 game, but free throws from Quincy Mathews made it a 30-30 contest at the break Wyoming shot 44 percent from the field, but were out rebounded 18-14 in the first 20 minutes.
The Pokes went on a 9-0 run to open the second half to take a 39-30 advantage. A fast break dunk from Young and a triple from Hunter Thompson highlighted the offensive spurt for the Pokes. The Trailblazers battled back with a 6-0 run, but TJ Taylor halted it with and and-one play.
Dixie State would continue to battle with the Cowboys taking a 51-50 advantage on Wyoming halfway through the frame. The teams would exchange the lead until Wade Miller hit his sixth three pointer of the game to give Dixie State a 61-59 advantage with 2:18 left. Andre Wilson added two free throws for a 63-59 contest with 1:45 left.
Naughton and James combined for three-straight free throws to make it a 63-62 game with 57 seconds left. After the missed free throws by Dixie State, Yong connected on his triple to give Wyoming the 65-63 win.
Dixie State was led in scoring by Miller with 18 points, all of which came from behind the arc. Matt Conway grabbed eight rebounds to lead the Trailblazers. Andre Wilson added 12 points and four assists.
The Cowboys return to action next Wednesday opening Mountain West play against Boise State for a 7 p.m. start for a game that can be seen on Stadium.