LARAMIE — Junior guard Nathan Sobey nailed a 3-pointer as time expired to give the University of Wyoming men’s basketball team a dramatic 67-66 win over Lehigh in the first round of the 2013 College Basketball Invitational Tournament on Tuesday night in the Arena-Auditorium. The Cowboys (20-13) trailed the Mountain Hawks (21-10) by seven with five minutes left, but closed the game on a 10-2 run to claim its 23rd-straight non-conference victory in the AA. The Cowboys advance to the CBI quarterfinals where they will host the winner of North Dakota State-Western Michigan on Monday in Laramie.
“I told the guys at the last timeout that if (Lehigh) scored, we had to get the ball inbounds as quickly as possible, and then whichever point guard got the ball, they had to push the ball up as fast as they could,” Wyoming coach Larry Shyatt said. “We wanted the other guards to spot up in the corners and Nate was able to knock it down. It’s nice to have a shot fall like that for us at the end.”
Wyoming trailed most of the second half, as Lehigh hit the last basket of the first half for a 36-35 lead at the break and built the advantage to as many as seven with just over five minutes to go. Sophomore forward Larry Nance Jr. sparked UW’s closing run with a layup and senior guard Derrious Gilmore tied the contest at 64-64 with 20 seconds left. The Mountain Hawks wound the clock down and made a layup with five seconds to go, but freshman guard Josh Adams took the ball coast-to-coast and found Sobey in the corner for the game-winning shot as the clock hit zeros.
Gilmore paced Wyoming with 25 points, as he tied a career-high with nine field goals and six threes. He also added four assists and played all 40 minutes. Nance posted 20 points and seven rebounds, as the two became the second UW duo to score 20 each this season. The two have scored in double figures in each of the last four games to combine for 52 percent (132-of-254) of Wyoming’s points over that span. Sobey finished with 12 points, including two treys.
The Cowboys notched their 20th win thanks to 58 percent shooting beyond the arc, their second-highest total of the season, and 54 percent from the field. Lehigh hit 48 percent from the field, but just 31 percent beyond the arc. Wyoming trailed 29-24 in rebounds, 7-4 in steals and committed three more turnovers than the Mountain Hawks, but had an 11-9 advantage in assists and 16-12 in bench points.
Wyoming built an early double-digit lead at 17-7 six minutes in, thanks to threes from Gilmore, Adams and sophomore guard Riley Grabau. Lehigh used a quick 8-0 spurt to cut the lead to two, but a thunderous Nance dunk followed by another trey from Gilmore kept the Pokes in front. Gilmore continued his torrid 6-of-6 start from the field and 5-of-5 beyond the arc, as Wyoming maintained its advantage until the seven-minute mark. The Mountain Hawks went on a 9-0 run to tie the contest at 30-30 and hit the last basket of the first half for their first lead of the game at 36-35.
Gilmore had 17 points in the first half, thanks to five threes, while Sobey and Nance added five points each. Sophomore forward Derek Cooke Jr. had five rebounds. Both teams shot well, including 62 percent from the field and 80 percent beyond the arc for Wyoming and 46 percent and 50 percent, respectively, for Lehigh. The Cowboys earned a slim 13-12 advantage in rebounds, 6-5 in assists and 2-1 in blocks.
Lehigh maintained a small lead through the first eight minutes of the second half, until Gilmore hit another trey to push the Pokes back in front. Lehigh quickly retook the lead, though, with a 7-0 run with eight minutes left and built the advantage to as many as seven with five minutes to go, before Wyoming made its final push. Nance scored 15 of his 20 points and grabbed five of his seven rebounds in the second half.