The Texas A&M men's basketball team took to the College Basketball Invitational immediately, jumping to a 19-4 lead over Wyoming and cruising to a 59-43 victory on Wednesday at Reed Arena.
A&M (18-15) will travel to Normal, Ill., to play Illinois State on Monday in the quarterfinals. Illinois State advanced with a 77-67 win over Morehead State.
In its third straight CBI appearance, Wyoming (18-15) fell to 1-3 in the seven-year-old tournament.
The Aggies looked at home in their first CBI game, hitting 8 of 12 shots to open the game. Five were layups and the other three 3-pointers.
"We had good energy and good enthusiasm to start the game," A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. "I was really proud of our guys' energy and wanting to play. So many teams at this time of year don't want to play if things don't go exactly the way they want it to."
A&M dominated inside, grabbing 41 rebounds to Wyoming's 27 and finishing with a 26-14 advantage in points in the paint.
"Coach has been on us all week about dominating them inside," A&M junior post Kourtney Roberson said. "We took that and did that in the game today."
Meanwhile, the Cowboys bombed away from behind the 3-point arc, missing all six of their 3-pointers in the first 6 1/2 minutes and finishing just 5 of 24 from long range.
"Usually we play to a higher intellect," Wyoming coach Larry Shyatt said. "We played good teams on the road and found ourselves down and always fought back except tonight. I feel bad our guys didn't put up more of a fight. It's not emblematic of how we played every single game."
The Cowboys never got closer than 13 points after falling down 19-4 and shot 30 percent from the field overall.
Wyoming didn't have its leading scorer and rebounder in 6-foot-8 Larry Nance Jr., and A&M took advantage with the 6-9 Roberson and 6-8 sophomore Antwan Space leading the Aggies' inside game. Roberson finished with 14 points and 10 rebounds, and Space had 11 points and 11 boards for his first double-double at A&M.
"It seemed like we were able to force it in there, and once we got it in there, they were posting up," Kennedy said. "I just want them to want the ball. That's something we emphasize. Our guys like to play out on the perimeter. That's not a bad thing all the time, but we have got to have a post presence on both ends of the court."
Roberson and Space shot a combined 12 for 17 with nearly half of their baskets coming on assists from Alex Caruso, who finished with 10, all of them coming in the first 25 minutes.
"To have 10 assists and to come out with the energy and enthusiasm, he was excited," Kennedy said. "He had a good game last game, and he brought enthusiasm. He was big key."
A&M's Fabyon Harris finished with 11 points, getting a better send-off at Reed Arena than he did when the Aggies lost to Auburn on Senior Night. Harris hit 3 of 8 3-pointers and made both of his free throws in 25 minutes.
Jerron Granberry, Nance's replacement, led Wyoming with 10 points. A&M held the Cowboys' two leading scorers, guards Josh Adams and Nathan Sobey, to 14 points combined.
"Jordan Green did a good job on Adams," Kennedy said. "He is a good player, had 24 points against UNLV at their tournament."
Green also had nine points and five assists, three in a 2-minute span with Caruso out of the game. Two of the assists led to Harris 3s and the final one set up Space for a dunk, which brought Caruso out of his chair waving his towel in appreciation.
"It's a great experience," Space said. "This is my first time playing in the postseason in college. We're looking at building off this for next season, so we can go to the big dance. I think it's huge for all of us to be playing at this time."
NOTES -- Wyoming's flight got rerouted through Chicago to Houston, and the team stayed in Houston on Tuesday night. The flight was originally set to go from Laramie, Wyo., to Denver to Austin. "They had a tough trip," Kennedy said. "I've been to Laramie, lived there, so they didn't have their best game."