Saturday was one of those almost but not quite days for the Campbell County boys soccer team. Top-ranked and consensus favorite to win the Class 4A state soccer tournament, the Camels fell just …
LAS VEGAS — Larry Nance Jr. and Leonard Washington felt a lot better.
And it showed.
“You can’t take our leading scorer and rebounder out and expect us to be right at the same level we were without him,” Nance said, speaking about Washington.
“And it’s nice to have me healthy,” Nance added. “I think you saw (Wednesday) what we can do.”
Wyoming’s two starting forwards combined for 37 points and 13 rebounds as they helped lead eighth-seeded Wyoming men’s basketball team to a 85-81 win over ninth-seeded Nevada in the play-in game of the Mountain West Tournament at Thomas & Mack Center on Tuesday.
The 19 points (and eight rebounds) by Nance were the most he’s scored against a conference opponent all season and the best performance he’s had since an illness stripped him of 16 pounds in the last leg of the conference season.
Washington’s performance (18 points and five rebounds) was the best he’s had since a sprained ankle and injured back hamstrung his game since Feb. 16.
The illness and injury of Nance and Washington were major factors in UWs’ season gone wrong. The thought of Wyoming being in Tuesday’s game, a matchup between the nine-team conference’s two lowest-seeded teams, seemed out of the question when the Pokes were 13-0 and standing alongside Duke, Arizona and Michigan as the nation’s undefeated teams.
“The timing wasn’t so good with illness and injuries,” Wyoming coach Larry Shyatt said. “But every team might go through that.”
“Nineteen [wins] was a long time coming,” he added. “I can remember back when be beat Fresno State. Then we lost The Boss [Washington] to an injury. We had some tough sledding.”
The Cowboys entered the Mountain West tournament on a five-game losing streak, the continuation of the team’s steep fall. And early against Nevada, it appeared that streak would reach six.
Wyoming trailed by as much as seven in the first half. The Cowboys cut that lead to four by halftime -- a similar spot UW was in its first meeting with the Wolf Pack in Reno, Nev., this year. Wyoming trailed by three after the first 20 minutes of that Jan. 12 game. The Cowboys fought back to win by 14.
Such was the trend Tuesday, thanks to the one-two punch from Nance and Washington.
Nance started early, while Washington played sparingly due to fouls. He scored seven first-half, swishing two 3-pointers in the process. Most of his work, however, was done inside as he slammed dunks and caught lobs from his teammates.
Washington bloomed late. Sixteen of his points came after halftime, none more important than the steal and traditional 3-point play that gave UW a cushion after Nevada had whittled the Cowboys’ lead to two points with 1:15 left to play.
“He baited me into throwing that pass,” Nevada guard Deonte Burton said. “He was sagging off then he shot the gap. I didn’t think he would be quick enough to get there, but he was. And he stole it.”
Burton and teammate Malik Story, did their part. The duo -- one of the best in the conference -- combined for 47 points. But Nance and Washington earned the win.
The Cowboys’ prize is at least one more game in the conference tournament. Wyoming now plays first-seeded New Mexico at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday.