LAS VEGAS, Nev. -
Junior guard Marquelle Dent scored 20 points and senior forward Kayla Woodward added 17 to guide the sixth-seeded University of Wyoming women's basketball team to a 70-48 win over 11th-seeded Air Force on Tuesday in the 2015 Mountain West Championships' first round in the Thomas & Mack Center. The Cowgirls (16-13, 10-8 MW) earned their largest margin of victory ever in the MW tournament and 20th-consecutive overall victory over the Falcons to advance to Tuesday's quarterfinals against Fresno State.
The Cowgirls led wire to wire, but Air Force (2-28, 1-17 MW) hung tough and was within 11 points of the Cowgirls at 45-34 with 13 minutes left in the game. Dent would spark Wyoming with a three, though, and score 13 of UW's last 25 points to push the lead to as much as 24 with two minutes remaining. The Falcons' 48 points were the second fewest allowed by the Cowgirls in MW tournament play, while Wyoming earned its fourth-straight opening-game victory at the event.
"Hard fought basketball game tonight," UW head coach Joe Legerski said. "Both teams were out competing and never seemed to be a real flow to the basketball game. In the second half, we talked about coming out after halftime and winning the next four minutes. And to Air Force's credit, they did that. They ended up getting our 17 point lead cut down to 11. Then I thought Marquelle Dent's four point play was as big a play as there was out there. She ended up getting that lead back up to 14 points, gave us a little more breathing room."
Dent's ninth 20-point effort this season came on 6-of-11 from the field and 2-of-3 beyond the arc, while she added five rebounds and three assists. Woodward hit six field goals as well and contributed a team-high eight rebounds to go with three assists. The performance moved her into fourth in Cowgirl history with 1,763 career points and third with 645 career baskets. The two combined for a 10-of-11 showing at the free-throw line. Sophomore Center Kaylie Rader had 13 points and seven rebounds, while senior guard Kaitlyn Mileto rounded out UW's four double-figure scorers with 11 points and four rebounds.
"You take a look at the stat sheet, I thought Kaitlyn got us off to a great start shooting threes," Legerski said. "Kayla was solid throughout the whole evening. And then I thought Marquelle's second half was tremendous. Kaylie Rader gave us a great lift off the bench. Throughout the whole game to have four players in double figures, we needed each and every point."
Wyoming shot 46 percent (26-of-57) from the field, 33 percent (7-of-21) from deep and 85 percent (11-of-13) at the free throw line, while holding Air Force to 31 percent (18-of-59) from the field and 31 percent (5-of-16) from deep. The Cowgirls earned a 46-26 advantage in rebounds, 17-12 in assists and committed a season-low eight fouls.