COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Dec. 29, 2016) — The Cowgirl basketball team (9-3 overall, 1-0 MW) overcame an early ten point deficit to earn a hard fought victory, 66-54, over the Air Force Falcons (2-9 overall, 0-1 MW) on Thursday night. It was the third straight road win for Wyoming.
“I don’t think our focus was there to start the game,” head coach Joe Legerski said. “We talked right away about shortening our passes, we knew they would come out and pressure us. We wanted to start with a flare screen, come down to make a pass and we turn the ball over. On the next possession we talked about fronting players, the next thing we are putting players at the foul line, so our focus wasn’t there to begin the game. You have to give Air Force credit. They came out very aggressive, we struggled on the offensive side and had 12 turnovers. We started to move better and found open people for baskets then finished it at the free throw line. Another thing was we switched defensively to the zone.”
Three Cowgirls recorded double-figures led by sophomore Marta Gomez. She finished her night a team-high 17 points off the bench in 26 minutes of action. Junior Liv Roberts added 14 points and seven rebounds followed by senior Hailey Ligocki with ten points and three assists. Junior Natalie Baker recorded a season-high 11 rebounds, sophomore Clara Tapia tied her career-high with seven assists and Taylor Rusk finished with a career-high seven rebounds plus seven points. Wyoming shot 23-of-51 (.451) from the field and 15-of-19 (.789) from the charity stripe. They out rebounded Air Force 41-34, had 32 points off the bench and 22 points in the paint.
“Marta (Gomez) was huge and played well again tonight. We played her and Natalie (Baker) down the stretch so we had more scorers on the floor. To Clara’s credit, she had five first half turnovers, none in the second and had seven assists and two steals. Even when things weren’t going well, I told everyone to remain calm. It’s a 40 minute game, slow down and we tried to force things early. Once again, Taylor (Rusk) hit a big three that put us back up by five. To her credit missed one on the possession before and that’s a freshman stepping up and making a big play.”
The Falcons were led by junior Cortney Porter with a game-high 24 points, four rebounds and three steals. Freshman Kassady Huffman added 13 points while Dee Bennett brought down a game-high 13 rebounds. Air Force shot 22-of-64 (.344) from the field and 9-of-15 (.600) from the charity stripe.
In the second half, Air Force came out and scored five straight to regain the 27-24 lead. A three by Roberts would start a 14-2 run over the next four minutes to push the Cowgirls ahead by nine, 38-29. The two teams combined for ten points the remainder of the third quarter as Wyoming took a 44-35 advantage in to the final ten minutes. The Falcons scored eight of nine points over the first couple of possessions to pull within two, 45-43. Rusk hit a big three to increase the lead back to five, 48-43, with 5:07 left on the clock. Out of a timeout, the Cowgirls pushed their advantage to nine, 54-45. Air Force was able to cut it to seven, 56-49, but Wyoming hit free throws down the stretch to earn the 66-54 victory.
It was tough going early for the Cowgirls with Air Force jumping out to a 9-0 lead. A basket by Tucker got Wyoming on the board at the 6:18 on the clock, but a field goal by Itugbu made it 11-2 through the first media timeout. UW responded with six straight points to close the gap to three, 11-8, but the Falcons pushed the lead to double-figures, 18-8. The Cowgirls went on an 11-0 run, topped off by a Ligocki jumper, which gave them the first lead of the game, 19-18. Wyoming scored five of the final nine points to take a 24-22 advantage in to the locker room.
Ligocki led the way with six points followed by redshirt sophomore Bailee Cottonand Roberts with four each. Baker brought down a team-high six rebounds. The Cowgirls shot 9-of-23 (.391) from the field, while out rebounding the Falcons, 23-15. Air Force was led by Porter with 12 points while Bennett recorded six boards. The Falcons shot 8-of-29 (.276) from the field.
Wyoming returns to action on Saturday against the UNLV Lady Rebels. The game is set for 2 p.m. in the Arena-Auditorium.