LARAMIE – Trace Young made his first shot and, more importantly, his last.
In his University of Wyoming debut, the 6-foot-9 true freshman wing made a 3-pointer with 0.3 seconds remaining to give the Cowboys a 65-63 victory over NCAA Division II Dixie State in front of 3,626 Saturday at the Arena-Auditorium.
Young, whose birthday was Saturday, made his first shot in a UW uniform with a 3-pointer at the start of the game. He finished with 16 points and six rebounds.
UW planned to redshirt Young, but injuries, a suspension and one player who left the program earlier this season left the Cowboys with seven scholarship players.
UW (4-9) snapped a three-game losing streak, its longest of the season. This was an exhibition game for Dixie State, which is 4-5, and it looked like it would escape Laramie with a victory after it took a 63-59 lead with 1 minute, 45 seconds to play after a 3-pointer by senior wing Wade Miller and two free throws by junior guard Andre Wilson.
Free throws by UW seniors Justin James and Jordan Naughton cut the lead to 63-62 with 57.3 seconds remaining.
Miller then missed a jumper, UW got the rebound, but redshirt freshman forward Hunter Thompson missed a 3-pointer. With 12.7 seconds left, Dixie State senior forward Quincy Mathews missed two free throws, which set up Young’s game-winning 3-pointer, which was assisted by Thompson.
“I’m a competitor and I always stay ready for my opportunity, and when the opportunity (not to redshirt) presented itself I was ready,” Young said.
“We moved the ball, my guy ran toward (Thompson), he made the extra pass and I had the shot.”
Edwards said the biggest thing he commended Young on in his debut was that he played hard. When Young found out earlier in the week he wasn’t going to redshirt because the team needed him, Edwards said Young prepared even harder.
Not only was this Young’s debut, it was the debut of the Cowboys’ more deliberate and slower offense. The 65 points tied for their third-fewest this season. They shot just 41.9 percent from the field and 31.8 percent from 3-point range. And, UW committed 16 turnovers that led to 13 Dixie State points.
However, the 63 points allowed are the fewest this season, and only the third time it allowed less than 70. Dixie State shot 34.5 percent and 31 percent from 3-point range.
Even though Dixie State didn’t have a lot of size, the Cowboys held a 35-34 rebounding edge. They entered the game being outrebounded by an average of 5.5 per game.
“I commended our guys for sticking with it,” Edwards said. “Some can say it was a Division II opponent, but it was a veteran opponent that had some Division I transfers. They also gave us some trouble with their match-up zone.
“It took the first half to get adjusted to our slower pace and their zone. A few times our eyes got big and we shot the ball too quick. But when we moved the ball, we played better. With this group now, it comes down to understanding basketball a little better and we’re still learning that.”
James also had 16 points for the Cowboys, along with eight rebounds, four assists and two steals in 38 minutes. Naughton added 12 points, four rebounds and two blocked shots in 25 minutes. It was Naughton’s most production and minutes coming off a knee injury in the lone exhibition game in early November.
Miller led Dixie State with 18 points on 6 of 13 shooting from 3-point range. Wilson had 12 points.
UW starts Mountain West play at 7 p.m. Wednesday against Boise State at the A-A.
Edwards said junior guard Jake Hendricks tore the lateral collateral ligament in his right knee last week at Texas-El Paso. Hendricks is expected to miss six to eight weeks and likely won’t play the rest of the season.
It is the same injury Naughton suffered to his knee in the exhibition game.
Hendricks has played in 12 games, and the minimum to play in and redshirt is 10. However, Edwards said UW will apply to get Hendricks a waiver for a medical redshirt through the NCAA.
UW’s starting lineup of Thompson, Naughton, James, Young and junior A.J. Banks was its 10th different one of the season. … Eight of Naughton’s 12 points came at the free-throw line. The eight made free throws made are a career high, as was his two blocked shots. … Thompson matched his career-high with six rebounds. … Banks, at 6-2, had seven rebounds and has 15 in his last two games. … UW and Dixie State were tied at 30 at halftime. It is the first time this season the Cowboys were tied at the half. … Dixie State was without junior guard Jack Pagenkopf because of a right ankle injury. Pagenkopf led the team with 2.9 assists per game and was third in scoring at 8.8 points per game. … UW improved to 3-4 at home and 2-1 in day games this season. … This was the first game between the schools in basketball. … Former UW guard Josh Adams (2013-16) was at the game.
Robert Gagliardi is the WyoSports senior editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 307-755-3325. Follow him on Twitter at @rpgagliardi.