Click here to see: Larry Nance Jr. dunk featured on ESPN’s Sportscenter
Down the road, Saturday’s 56-33 win over Colorado could mean much more to the Wyoming men’s basketball team than a normal early-season 23-point victory.
Yes, it was in front of just over 9,000 fans in just the third game of the newly refurbished Arena-Auditorium.
Yes, it was in front of a Front Range school that could be a rival if the other team wanted it to be; Colorado doesn’t.
Yes, it was a win against a Pac-12 team that likely is man-to-man is more athletic and talented.
It could be a vaunted signature win for the Cowboys ... for the future.
That is, if the Cowboys follow it up and make it something that postseason committees will pay attention to in March.
For now, it is just one of three games in five days for Wyoming, which hosts Florida A&M on Monday. A slip Monday night against a not-so-good A&M team and Saturday’s electric win will mean very little, if not nada and zilch.
Wyoming junior guard Josh Adams said they have to get ready for the next game in a hurry.
"It’s not football. We don’t have a week to celebrate and prepare,” said Adams, who scored 14 points, including the first eight of the second half as the Cowboys outscored the Buffs 30-9 in the final 20 minutes. “We have to get back at it, and get right back here (Sunday) and have a laser focus on Florida A&M."
Wyoming head coach Larry Shyatt said getting right back to work suits him just fine.
“I think it’s better for us that we don’t talk about it, think about it, get questions asked by you guys about it, and go play ball," Shyatt said. "They’ll be happier to play ball. The coaches probably want more practice time, but this is an important game Monday, because it’s the next one.”
For Rapid City and area fans who saw the Cowboys in town last season against South Dakota, they saw a talented and athletic junior forward Larry Nance Jr. Later in the season, Nance was lost with an ACL injury, which basically meant an end to any hopes for a strong postseason appearance for UW. The Cowboys finished 18-15, but lost six of their final seven games without Nance.
Shyatt has brought Nance along slowly since his surgery, although he is back full bore now that the season is underway.
Taking a feed from Adams on a fast break, Nance’s power dunk over Colorado’s Josh Scott not only fired up the ‘Pokes and their fans, it made ESPN’s Sportscenter’s Top Plays of the Day for Sunday.
When asked how the dunk felt, Nance was naturally a little emotional about it, calling it a sigh of relief.
"It was awesome. It felt great just to be back up there,” Nance said.
If your name is Nance, up there is way up there.
Laramie road trip
After covering University of Wyoming athletics for over 20 years, Saturday was an opportunity for yours truly to head back to Laramie for a day and see the new Arena-Auditorium.
The $10 million dollar Phase 1 saw quite a change, with the benches moved to the opposite side of the court, which was redone on an angle in order to allow the Wyoming teams to utilize more space for practice.
Although officials took some seating away from the overall arena, they moved the student body from one side to under the west basket, and added seating closer to the court, allowing even a more home-court advantage for the arena dubbed ”The Dome of Doom.”
“Welcome to 7,220 Feet” will have an even more intimidating affect for those playing in the AA for the first time. Wyoming has won 74 percent of its home games since it opened in 1982.
Large HD jumbo scoreboards are now on both ends of the court and an improved sound system give the arena a rock concert feel. Two state-of-the-art locker rooms, a new sports medicine area and an expanded weight training area and rooms for film and meetings were also added
Those are the good additions. The one “not-so-good edition” for the media was moving one part of the press row way up high in the nose-bleed section. After spending all of those years just a couple of rows off the court, we in the media were spoiled.
There's still a court-side press row for officials, radio and the main Wyoming beat writers. The rest are seated well above 7,220 feet.
But, if that’s all there is to complain about, UW officials have an overwhelming stamp of approval.
The $20 million second phase of the Arena-Auditorium renovation will focus on the exterior of the building. The project will make improvements to the concourse area and build a Hall of Fame, while the exterior will receive a facelift as well.