Even at less than full strength, senior forward Leonard Washington carried Wyoming on his strained lower back.
“I still wouldn’t say I’m back to myself,” he said. “I played as hard as I could, as long as I could.”
That was good enough. Washington had 18 points, five rebounds and a key steal to help lead the eighth-seeded Cowboys to an 85-81 win over No. 9 UNR in the Mountain West tournament play-in game Tuesday at the Thomas & Mack Center.
Larry Nance Jr. scored 19 points on 9-for-10 shooting, and Derrious Gilmore had 17 for Wyoming, which advanced to play top-seeded New Mexico (26-5) in a quarterfinal at 6:30 p.m. today.
“At this time of year, you want to play the best,” Cowboys coach Larry Shyatt said. “I’m going to see if the commissioner will let us play without a shot clock.”
Wyoming (19-12) wiped out a four-point deficit with a 19-4 run to open the second half. Nance and Washington scored 14 of the points. Junior guard Deonte Burton’s 3-pointer pulled the Wolf Pack (12-19) within 67-64 with 5:25 remaining.
UNR trailed by two when Burton made a costly error in judgment. He telegraphed a pass that was picked off by Washington, who raced to the other end for a layup and three-point play that put the Cowboys up 77-72 with 1:14 to go. Ankle and back injuries have slowed Washington since mid-February.
“I think he baited me into throwing that pass. I didn’t think he would be quick enough to get there,” said Burton, who finished with 27 points in the Wolf Pack’s eighth straight loss.
Senior guard Malik Story had 20 points for UNR, which shot 10-for-25 from 3-point range. Wyoming shot 57.4 percent (27-for-47) from the field to offset scoring surges by Burton and Story.
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at email@example.com or 702-387-2907. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.