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Bench players come up big for Wyoming men’s basketball

November 18, 2016

LARAMIE, Wyo. (AP) — First-year head coach Allen Edwards has noted over and over again that the strength of the Wyoming men’s basketball team is its numbers.

Everyone is unselfish. Everyone gets involved.

Well, except when it comes to pulling down rebounds.

Hayden Dalton had 13 of them in Wyoming’s 73-72 win Monday at Montana, seven more than anyone else on the team.

“It was great playing with him, because he was grabbing every rebound,” sophomore guard Justin James said. “I mean, I was kind of mad, because I kind of couldn’t get any, but I was happy that he was pulling rebounds and scoring points for us.”

Dalton, who came off the bench, had 11 points as well as the junior forward posted his first career double-double.

“That was a really good feeling,” he said. “I didn’t really even realize it was my first one until I saw after, but it’s always fun to have accomplishments like that. But I’m glad I could just do whatever I could do to help the team win.”

That unselfish attitude has been apparent through Wyoming’s first two games. In addition to Dalton, Wyoming got double-digit points off the bench from James, as he scored a career-high 19 against the Grizzlies.

“That’s the good thing about this team,” said James, who also set a career high with eight field goals. “We have scorers everywhere. We have so many people who can do different things, and we’re all unselfish, so that’s great.”

James and Dalton averaged 5.4 and 3.8 minutes per game, respectively, last season. Monday, Dalton played 30 and James played 27.

“It’s really good, especially after all of us just having inconsistent minutes last year, not really knowing what to expect,” Dalton told the Casper Star-Tribune (http://bit.ly/2fDSYAu).

Dalton was 2 of 4 from behind the 3-point line against Montana, a game after hitting 2 of 5 against Western State in the season opener.

“I shot a little bit last year, but I worked on that a lot this summer and a bunch of us did as well,” said the 6-foot-8 Dalton. “And all of our shots have gotten a lot better.”

The ability to let Dalton and 6-foot-9 Alan Herndon shoot from distance gives Wyoming’s opponents another thing to worry about on defense.

“I think it makes it a lot harder for people to guard and gives us just another attribute to our game,” Dalton said.

In the season opener, sophomore forward Jordan Naughton set a career high with 20 points. Against Montana, however, Naughton was limited to two points after getting in foul trouble early.

His teammates picked up the slack. Junior guard Alexander Aka Gorski scored eight points, a game after matching Naughton’s 20, and Herndon added 10 with six rebounds.

“Just looking at the ball club in general, I think that’s probably what is the best part about already being on the staff and having somewhat of a feel for personnel,” said Edwards, who was an assistant the past five years at Wyoming, “I thought this group would be more balanced than it would be top-end heavy, so to speak. That’s what I like about us.

″... When you think about Naughton getting in foul trouble early, us being able to adjust and go a different route and still be able to come away with a victory I thought was huge.”

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Information from: Casper (Wyo.) Star-Tribune, http://www.trib.com

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