TJ Taylor and Hunter Maldonado each scored a career-high 21 points to lead the Wyoming Cowboys to their first win of the season 86-78 over Grambling State Wednesday night in Laramie.

Taylor provided the spark off the bench in the first half. He scored six straight points, which included the go-ahead three-pointer, with 12:54 on the clock, which gave the Pokes the lead for good in the first half.

Maldonado had his first career double-double, as he led UW on the glass with 12 rebounds. Justin James scored a team-high 23 points, while Jake Hendricks added 13.

Grambling State scored the first five points of the second half and trimmed the Cowboys lead to 52-47. Wyoming responded with a 14-3 spurt over the next six minutes for their biggest lead of 66-50. UW couldn’t ever put the Tigers away. They cut it to six with 6:44 left, but a three-point play by James pushed it back to 77-68. Grambling St got back within six, at 84-78, but James hit a pair of free throws with one minute left that provided the final margin.

Taylor’s 21 points were the most by a freshman since Desmar Jackson had 31 points at Utah in 2010. This game was also the first time three Cowboys scored 20 or more points since the New Mexico game last season, Feb. 20.

Wyoming (1-2) shot 42 percent from the field. They were 9-24, 37.5 percent, from deep. UW helped itself at the foul line, as they were 27-32, 84.4 percent. The Pokes had a 42-33 rebounding edge. They also scored 25 points off 15 Tigers turnovers.

Grambling State (1-1) had four players score in double figures led by Dallas Polk-Hillard with 14. The Tigers shot 49 percent from the floor. They were 8-16 from three, but only 14-23 (61%) from the free throw line.

The lead changed hands five times in the first six minutes of the game. Taylor’s personal 6-0 run put UW ahead to stay. A Hendricks three-pointer made 31-21 with just under eight minutes to go in the half, but Grambling State climbed back within four several times. Back-to-back three’s by James made 41-31. The lead reached 12 before Wyoming held a 52-42 advantage at halftime.

The Cowboys return to action against Niagara Friday at 7 p.m. in the Arena-Auditorium.

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