Dec 5, 2012 - The Associated PressThe University of Wyoming men's basketball team didn't do much right in the first half.
It did little wrong in the second half.
The Cowboys overcame a 14-point halftime deficit and a 19-point hole with 16 minutes, 58 seconds to play for an 81-67 win at Illinois State Tuesday night in front of 6,561 at Redbird Arena in Normal, Ill.
The game was part of the Mountain West-Missouri Valley Conference Challenge and gave the MW a 5-3 advantage with only one game remaining.
UW improved to 9-0 with the win, while Illinois State lost its third straight and fell to 5-3. The 9-0 start is the best for the program since the 1987-88 season, when UW started 11-0.
The Cowboys outscored the Redbirds 52-24 in the second half. They took a 67-66 lead with 4:22 to play after a pair of free throws by senior point guard Derrious Gilmore. Their last lead before that was 10-8 with 14:21 left in the first half.
UW never trailed after that.
The Cowboys shot 64 percent in the second half and made 17 of 18 free throws.
All five starters scored in double figures. Sophomore forward Larry Nance Jr. scored a career-high 19 points. Senior guard Luke Martinez had 17 points and a single-game school record with nine steals. The old record was seven.
Washington added 15 points, as did true freshman guard Josh Adams. That was a career-high for Adams, who started for injured sophomore guard Riley Grabau (knee). Grabau didn't play.
All five UW starters played 36 or more minutes, and Gilmore played all 40 minutes. UW used only four players off the bench who combined to log 12 minutes - mostly in the first half.
"I've never been a part of something like that," Martinez said on the Cowboy Sports Network after the game.
However, the first half and the early parts of the second half looked like UW would lose - and lose badly.
Illinois State made 8 of 15 3-pointers in the first half, including six straight over about a five-minute stretch. Senior guard Tyler Brown scored 17 points in the first half, but only five in the second half. UW committed 10 first-half turnovers and was outrebounded 18-13.
The Cowboys forced 14 turnovers in the second half while committing just four. UW also made 22 of 24 free throws in the game.
"At halftime we just talked about chipping away the lead and sticking together as a team," Martinez said.
UW scored 29 points off 20 Illinois State turnovers, and outscored the Redbirds 40-24 in the paint. Illinois State was 6-for-14 from the free-throw line.
"I told the players, 'I am so proud to be one of your coaches,'" coach Larry Shyatt said after the game. "Our coaching staff did a great job keeping their composure as well. It was a great night for the Cowboys."
Senior guard Luke Martinez scored 17 points, and set a single-game school record with nine steals. The old record was seven. Martinez also had five rebounds.
UW outscored Illinois State 52-24 in the second half, and made 22 of 24 free throws in the game. It also forced 14 turnovers in that half while committing just four.
UW hosts Oklahoma Panhandle State at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie.
Simply returning all 10 players from a year ago suggested to University of Wyoming Cowgirls coach Joe Legerski that his team would be better offensively.
But this good?
Probably not even the UW women's basketball coach with the most wins in team history saw this coming.
Through the first month of nonconference play, the Cowgirls are averaging 71.0 points a game, which tops all Mountain West teams.
Wyoming is also first in scoring margin (plus 15.7), field goal percentage (44.9) and 3-point field goal percentage (40.8).
The Cowgirls have four players among the top 12 in the MW in scoring and the top two shooters in the league.
It has helped UW to a 5-1 start heading into this weekend's northern road trip to Montana.
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