Larry Nance Jr. is back. Nance recorded his seventh double-double of the season Wednesday in his best outing since returning from a four-game absence (mononucleosis), and led Wyoming to a 76-53 win over Utah State at home in Laramie, Wyoming.
The other Jr., Derek Cooke Jr., set the Cowboys on a 4-0 start — a lead that the home team would never give up. The 10-point deficit Utah State trailed by at the half quickly turned into 13 after the break. That was as close as the Aggies would come the rest of the night, and the Aggies' six-game win streak, dating back to Feb. 7, screeched to a halt.
Nance paced the Cowboys (22-8, 11-6) with 21 points and 10 rebounds. Josh Adams added 17 points and eight assists. Cooke pitched in 11.
Chris Smith led the Aggies (18-11, 11-6) with 18 points on 7-of-10 shooting. Jalen Moore pushed his double-digit-scoring streak to nine with 11 points. David Collette finished with 10.
Why the Aggies lost
The Aggies got out-rebounded, out-assisted, out-blocked, out-stolen and eventually outscored. The Cowboys set the tone early. Alan Herndon’s dunk at the 13:02 mark in the first half put the Cowboys up by 11 points. Herndon’s dunk was one of five first-half dunks — proof that things were too easy for the Cowboys, who scored 32 points in the paint (to the Aggies’ 22).
After scrapping to keep the game close at the end of the first half, Riley Grabau drained a 3-pointer at the 18:29 mark to open the second half and expanded the Wyoming lead from 10 to 13. The two teams traded buckets for the next three minutes until Grabau hit another three, and the lead stretched to 16 — a lot to deal with on the road against a good team when you’ve exhausted yourselves trying to keep the first half respectable.
What it means
The loss slows a torrential streak — 10th-longest active streak in the nation heading into Wednesday’s game — and drops the Aggies into a tie for fourth place with the Cowboys. Fourth place is good enough for a first-round bye in the upcoming Mountain West tournament, and the Aggies could still finish as high as third in the conference.
Grading the performance
The Aggies got outworked and out-hustled all night. They couldn’t hit from near (16-of-30) or far (7-of-21). And on nights when shots refuse to fall, you have to do better than 3-of-5 from the free-throw line.
Aggies' grade: C-
The Cowboys took advantage of the Aggies’ miscues, attacked from outside, which led to easy baskets inside, and made the most from the free-throw line (9-of-10). Four players scored in double digits, and they held a very hot USU team to 45.8 percent shooting and 53 points.
Cowboys' grade: A
Three telling stats
— Wyoming field goal percentage (.556): Prior to Wednesday, the Aggies had allowed only USC to shoot .500 or better from the field. The Cowboys scored from everywhere and every which way: 32 points in the paint, 15 off turnovers, seven second-chance points and eight fast-break points.
— Bench points: Add bench points to the list as Wyoming’s reserves outscored Utah State’s 29-7. USU’s JoJo McGlaston scored all seven bench points in his 22 minutes. The rest of the USU bench went 38 minutes without a score.
— Three offensive rebounds: Utah State’s lack of offensive rebounding did nothing for its second-chance points — literally. The Aggies did not have a single second-chance point.
The Aggies get a chance to return to form Saturday as they host Colorado State at 7 p.m. This will be longtime head coach Stew Morrill’s final stand at the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum. A win against Colorado State (24-5, 11-5), currently third in the Mountain West, could push Utah State into third place in the conference. The Rams are led by senior J.J. Avila, averaging 16.1 points and 7.5 rebounds per game.
Follow Garrett Faylor on Twitter @G_Faylor.