By Jeremy Hoeck
RAPID CITY — It wasn’t by design to give the West River fans in attendance at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center an extra five minutes of basketball, but they were certainly treated to an entertaining game.
And a particularly frustrating one for the “home” team.
It was mostly thanks to Larry Nance Jr. that Wyoming was able to rally past the University of South Dakota 67-66 in Saturday night’s men’s showdown in Rapid City.
“Nance was a difference maker tonight,” USD head coach Joey James said simply.
A 6-foot-8 junior forward, Nance scored a game-high 25 points and hauled in nine rebounds to lead Wyoming (7-2) — playing in front of more than a handful of fans in yellow and brown.
It was Nance’s scoop layup and ensuing free throw after being fouled with 2.6 seconds left in overtime that sealed the win. The Coyotes (3-5) had a good look just ahead of the buzzer, but the shot was short.
The contact might have been light, but once the basket was good and the Cowboys prepared for either a zone or man defense from the Coyotes, they knew whom to find.
“Fortuantely our guys were focused and connected, and they got the ball to Larry,” Wyoming coach Larry Shyatt sad. “And kudos to Larry, he knocked in a big shot for us, and an even bigger free throw.”
After winning the first matchup two weeks ago by 17 points in Laramie, the Cowboys (7-2) battled back from a 4-point deficit with 1:43 to play in overtime.
Nance’s put-back dunk with 1:12 left cut USD’s lead to 66-64, and the Coyotes then came down and missed three chances at a bucket off offensive rebounds.
“A basket there would have helped obviously, but we still should have been able to make plays on the defensive end to close it out,” said junior guard Brandon Bos, who scored 22 points.
On the flip side, Wyoming wasn’t able to close out a 3-point lead with 6.2 seconds to play in regulation.
Bos was fouled on a jumper with 3.3 seconds left, and then made the first free throw. His second was off the mark, but Bos got the rebound and was fouled.
His two foul shots with 1.8 seconds left ensured the game would head to overtime, tied 60-60.
And still, the Coyotes were not able to muster a victory despite their best efforts.
“I told our guys, ‘Do not hang your heads, because that was one incredible game,’” James said. “They played their butts off. That’s a very good Wyoming team that’s well-coached.
“We’re moving in the right direction, and our kids are really competing.”
Not to mention improving, particularly since a 70-53 loss at Wyoming back on Nov. 22. In that loss, the Coyotes shot 32 percent, but allowed the Cowboys to shoot 50 percent.
“At our first game, we struggled offensively; weren’t really hitting our shots,” said USD sophomore Tyler Flack, who had 11 points and 10 rebounds. “Tonight we hit our shots, more but importantly on defense, we locked them up, especially in the first half.”
Statistically, Saturday’s game was about dead even. The only difference, of course, was on the scoreboard.
“Obviously, it would have been nice to come up with a win, but we can use this road trip to learn the rest of the year,” Bos said. “To use it as motivation. Nobody likes to lose this way.”
Such disappointment can actually be a good thing, said James whose team travels to Kansas State on Tuesday.
“I want them to be,” he said. “That’s a sign of a team that wants to compete every night.”
You can follow Jeremy Hoeck on Twitter at twitter.com/jhoeck. Discuss this story at www.yankton.net.
WYOMING 67, S. DAKOTA 66, OT
Cooke Jr. 3-3 2-2 8, Nance Jr. 9-14 7-11 25, Grabau 3-7 0-0 9, Adams 2-7 7-8 12, Sobey 1-6 0-0 3, Hankerson Jr. 0-1 1-4 1, Washington III 2-6 0-0 6, Granberry 1-4 1-2 3, Haldorson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 21-48 18-27 67.
S. DAKOTA (3-5)
Flack 4-12 2-3 11, Gruis 5-7 0-1 10, Norris 2-9 0-0 5, Bos 5-16 10-11 22, Thoseby 2-5 0-0 5, Kasperbauer 0-4 2-2 2, Rowson 0-2 0-0 0, Pomlee 1-2 0-0 2, Robertson 1-2 2-3 4, Larson 2-4 1-2 5. Totals 22-63 17-22 66.
Halftime—S. Dakota 27-24. End Of Regulation—Tied 60. 3-Point Goals—Wyoming 7-19 (Grabau 3-6, Washington III 2-4, Sobey 1-2, Adams 1-4, Hankerson Jr. 0-1, Granberry 0-2), S. Dakota 5-20 (Bos 2-7, Flack 1-2, Thoseby 1-3, Norris 1-4, Pomlee 0-1, Larson 0-1, Kasperbauer 0-2). Fouled Out—Cooke Jr., Gruis. Rebounds—Wyoming 33 (Cooke Jr. 14), S. Dakota 39 (Flack 10). Assists—Wyoming 15 (Grabau, Hankerson Jr. 4), S. Dakota 8 (Norris 3). Total Fouls—Wyoming 20, S. Dakota 19. Technical—Wyoming Bench. A—3,356.