Down by as much as 19 points early in the second half, the University of Wyoming men’s basketball team closed the game with a 36-7 run to earn a statement 81-67 win over Illinois State on Tuesday night in Redbird Arena. Sophomore Larry Nance, Jr. paced five Cowboys in double figures with a career-high 19 points, as UW ran their record to a perfect 9-0 on the season.Wyoming trailed 50-31 just three minutes into the second half, but cranked up the defensive pressure and crafted runs of 14-0 and 11-0. The Pokes held the Redbirds to just one field goal and seven points over the final 12 minutes, thanks in part to a UW single-game record nine steals from senior guard Luke Martinez.

“[During the second half], my thoughts were we are being part of something special here,” Wyoming head coach Larry Shyatt said. “We really were on the cusp of losing it, but the energy and emotion in our huddle was amazing. To only have four turnovers in the second half was amazing and to make 22 out of 24 free throws. I’m so proud to be one of their coaches. Our coaching staff did a great job of keeping their emotions in check as well.”

It was a tale of two halves for the Cowboys. The Redbirds nailed six consecutive threes during a 20-3 run late in the first half and went into halftime with a 43-29 lead, but Wyoming outscored ISU 52-24 in the second frame. UW forced 14 turnovers and collected nine steals in the second half.

“When we put the press on we really got some good things,” Shyatt said. “So many things happened in the second half, it’s almost like you’re a mad scientist and you don’t want to touch it when you’re on a run like that.”

Nance added six rebounds and two steals to his 19 points, while Martinez had 17 points, five rebounds and three assists in addition to his record-setting nine steals. The previous record was seven by three different Cowboys. Freshman Josh Adams made his first career start and posted a career-high 15 points and four assists. Senior forward Leonard Washington added 15 points and seven rebounds, while Senior guard Derrious Gilmore posted 13 points and five assists. Wyoming’s starters scored 79 of its 81 points.

Wyoming shot 54 percent (27-of-50) from the field, including 64 percent (16-of-25) in the second half, and a season-high 92 percent (22-of-24) at the free throw line. ISU shot 50 percent (25-of-50) and 44 percent (11-of-25) and out-rebounded the Pokes 28-26. UW forced ISU into 20 turnovers and had 12 steals.

Illinois State (5-3) quickly extended the lead to 19 at 50-31 just three minutes into the second half, but the Cowboys keep fighting. Adams sparked a 14-0 run at the 12:07 mark with a jumper. Nance and Washington added back-to-back dunks and Martinez and Gilmore nailed home back-to-back treys, as UW pulled within 60-59 with 8:31 left.

The Pokes tied it, at 63-63, a few minutes later and followed with another 11-0 run to go up 74-66 with 2:03 left.

Wyoming continues its season by hosting Oklahoma Panhandle State at 2 p.m. on Saturday in the Arena-Auditorium. You can listen to Cowboy basketball on Y95 Country. The broadcast starts at 1:30 pm.