From the desk of Sean O'Sullivan
Wyoming Athletic Department
FRESNO – The Cowgirls had another strong defensive effort, and paired with trademark balanced scoring, claimed their first victory in Fresno since 1996 with a 63-56 victory against Fresno State. For the third consecutive game the Cowgirls never trailed.
“I thought the defensive effort was there all night long,” said head coach Joe Legerski. “We knew we had to step up. They do such a great job of putting the ball on the floor, attacking, and the biggest thing we talked about was we had to limit their threes. But more importantly, we had to keep them off the free throw line. Fresno State had six attempts at the free throw line. That was a big part of this. We were not going to foul, we had to move our feet defensively and make things difficult.”
Wyoming was led by Marta Gomez, who tallied 15 points and grabbed five rebounds. Taylor Rusk and Quinn Weidemann each added 12 points for the Cowgirls. Clara Tapia scored six points and dished out five assists, sharing the team high in that statistic with Sladjana Rakovic, a career-high number for Rakovic. Bailee Cotton had six points, 12 rebounds and a career-high four blocks.
The Cowgirls shot 45.8 percent (22-of-48) from the field, 56.3 percent from three (9-of-16) and 62.5 percent (10-of-16) from the free throw line. Wyoming ended the game with 20 assists and 12 turnovers. It’s the fifth time this season the Cowgirls have had at least 20 assists in a game.
Fresno State was led by Candice White’s 24 points and three assists. Maddi Utti scored 14 points and added four steals, while Aly Gamez led Fresno State on the glass with nine rebounds.
The Bullodogs shot 35.8 percent (24-of-67) from the field, 20.0 percent from three (5-of-25) and 50.0 percent (3-of-6) from the free throw line. Fresno State ended the game with six assists and nine turnovers.
It was a defensive battle to start the game, as both teams came up empty on multiple possessions. Finally, the Cowgirls broke through thanks to a Gomez jumper, Rusk layup and Gomez trey to take a 7-0 lead at the 4:33 mark of the quarter. Another Rusk fastbreak layup put Wyoming up 12-2 at the 2:15 mark. The final six seconds of the quarter saw a pair of threes from both teams, and the Cowgirls took an 18-9 lead into the first quarter break.
Fresno State’s White opened the second quarter with an elbow jumper, but Cotton answered by finding the soft spot in the zone for a layup. Weidemann buried a trey, and after a steal, a fastbreak layup from Rakovic made it 25-14 with 5:56 remaining in the half. Rusk hit a corner three after some movement to escape the zone, and the Cowgirls entered the media timeout up 28-14 with 3:50 left in the second frame. The Bulldogs outscored Wyoming 7-4 to end the half, and the Cowgirls took a 32-21 lead into halftime.
Gomez hit a baseline jumper to start the second half, but White scored from the elbow to spark a 6-0 run for Fresno State. Cotton stopped that run with a free throw, putting Wyoming up 35-27 at the 7:33 mark. Rakovic made a layup to regain a double-digit lead for the Cowgirls, 44-33, at the 2:52 mark. The teams traded baskets, and White hit a buzzer-beating three to make it a 46-40 lead for Wyoming after three quarters.
White then opened the scoring in the fourth quarter, but after each team made a few baskets, the Bulldogs only trimmed one point off the Cowgirl lead, and Wyoming held a 52-47 advantage with 4:32 to go in the game. Another White jumper trimmed the lead Cowgirl to three. Tapia ended a five-minute-plus Cowgirl scoring drought with an elbow jumper to extend the Cowgirl lead back to five, 54-49 with 1:28 to go. Then, after a defensive stop, Tapia went 1-of-2 at the line to make it 55-49 with 56.2 second to play.
While the Cowgirls had struggled to score in the middle of the period, the Bulldogs entered the final minute of the game on a 3:10 scoring drought. The Bulldogs missed again, and Gomez grabbed the rebound, was fouled and made 1-of-2 to make it 56-49 with 48.7 seconds to go. White scored a driving layup to get some back, but Cotton went 1-of-2 at the line to keep it a tough two-possession game, as Fresno State trailed, 57-51, with 43.4 left in the game. Utti scored for Fresno, and Gomez answered with a pair of free throws.
The Cowgirls earned another stop, and Cotton made two more free throws. The game wasn’t over yet, as the Bulldogs scored a three-ball with 13.6 seconds left, and Erjavec made 1-of-2 at the line. White’s desperation three missed, and Tapia collected the rebound and made a free throw to make the final 63-56.
The Cowgirls return to action on Wednesday, February 6, when they host Air Force at 6:30 p.m. (MT) in the Arena-Auditorium.