LARAMIE, Wyo. (March 18, 2017) — The Wyoming women’s basketball team (23-9 overall, 13-5 MW) had its season ended in the second round of the WNIT with a tough 68-67 overtime loss against the Washington State Cougars (14-19, 6-12 Pac-12) on Saturday afternoon
Junior Natalie Baker recorded a team-high 18 points, six rebounds and a career-high four steals. Redshirt sophomore Bailee Cotton added eight points and five rebounds followed by sophomore Marta Gomez with eight points and four rebounds. Sophomore Clara Tapia also added seven assists plus six points. The Cowgirls were 20-54 (.370) from the field, 9-22 (.409) from beyond the arc and 18-25 (.720) from the charity stripe.
“As I told this team from day one, you are going to be measured if you can reach your potential not by the result on the scoreboard,” head coach Joe Legerski said. “It says that we came up a point short today. This team didn’t come up short at all this season. When you get picked eighth, finish runner up in an improved MW conference, come up with 22 wins and reach postseason play. We by far reached and exceeded it. Today was a heck of a game. It was physical, you had to make every play and we made a lot of plays. I was excited when we had two shots open in overtime, great looks and the ball just didn’t go down. We were down four and Taylor Rusk stepped right up and hit a three, which gives us a chance. The decision has to be made with 30 seconds to go, how are we going to get this done at the end. With 10-12 seconds to go we attacked, but we didn’t keep doing that and backed off. Then we put Clara (Tapia) in a difficult spot in the end. All and all, Natalie (Baker) did a great job to keep us in it and when we were down in the fourth quarter Bailee (Cotton) made some really tough plays and it really hurt us not having her in the overtime.”
Four Cougars finished the night in double-figures led by junior Pinelopi Pavlopoulou with 20 points. Junior Caila Hailey followed with 12 points and eight rebounds, while Senior Ivana Kmetovska and sophomore Alexys Swedlund each added ten points. Washington State was 27-72 (.375) from the field and out rebounded the Cowgirls 50-34.
The teams exchanged early baskets out of the break until the Cougars went on a 6-0 run to extend the lead to nine, 45-36. A basket by senior Hailey Ligocki ended a two minute scoreless stretch and another score pulled them to within four, 45-41. WSU increased the lead back to seven 49-42 through the media timeout. The Cowgirls answered with an 8-2 run to close with one, 51-50. A basket by Swedlund ended the run, but six straight by UW gave them the lead for the first time since the second quarter, 56-53 after three. Washington State battled back to tie it up at 59 all midway through the quarter. A basket by Cotton and one of two free throws to make it 62-59. Free throws tied it all up at 62. Both teams had chances to pull ahead but jumpers late by both would force overtime. It was tough going for both teams early extra frame with each team missing three shots a piece. At the 3:08 mark, Pavlopoulou hit a jumper followed by two free throws to make it 68-64. With just under a minute to go Rusk hit a big three to pull the Cowgirls within one, 68-67. The Cowgirls had one last chance after a Cougar miss and rebound by Tapia. It went right down to the end with Tapia’s final effort fell short and Washington State holding on to the 68-67 victory.
The Cougars jumped out with two quick baskets to take an early 4-0 lead. The Cowgirls scored the next seven of nine to take a 7-6 advantage. After a free throw and basket by Washington put them ahead 9-7, Wyoming recorded five straight points to make it 12-7. The teams combined for ten points the rest of the quarter with junior Skyler Snodgrass hitting a three at the end to make it 17-14 for Wyoming. The scoring went back and forth to begin the period until the Cougars took a 25-22 lead. A three by Baker evened it up and eventually took the lead 28-26. Washington State responded with a 9-3 run to go up 35-31. Gomez hit a couple of free throws to make it a two-point contest, 35-33, but a late bucket gave the Cougars a 37-33 advantage headed in to the locker room.
Baker led all Cowgirls with 12 points along with four rebounds. She was followed by Gomez with eight points. UW shot 10-23 (.435) from the field and 5-11 (.455) from beyond the arc. Washington State was led by Pavlopoulou with 12 points while Hailey added ten and a team-high three boards. The Cougars shot 15-29 (.517) from the field.