Cowgirls Advance at MWC Tourney, Beat Lady Rebels 60-55

March 9, 2010

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    In the opening round of the 2010 Conoco Mountain West Conference Championships, the Wyoming Cowgirl Basketball Team (19-10 overall, 9-7 MWC) earned a 60-55 victory over the UNLV Lady Rebels (13-18 overall, 6-10 MWC) on Tuesday night in Las Vegas. It's the first time since 2007 when they defeated San Diego State, 56-44, that the Cowgirls have won an opening round game of the MWC Tournament.

    "We always talk about it being a 40 minute basketball game," said head coach Joe Legerski. "We played UNLV the last game of the season, and it came down to the last minute of the basketball game, just like it did today.

    "Two players I thought were huge for us. Aubrey really carried this team for about 34 minutes, and during one timeout I talked about that other people needed to step up because we started standing around watching Aubrey trying to do everything. I thought Jade had a big three, came back, and hit a nice two point shot that really gave us a lift and took a little bit of the pressure off Aubrey to be able to do what she does so well, is carry this group.

    "We made big plays by grabbing offensive rebounds and coming up with the play, none bigger than what Aubrey grabbed to force another jump ball. We had the basketball again, got the ball in and back to the free throw line."

    The Cowgirls had three players finish the night in double-figures led by junior Aubrey Vandiver. She recorded a team high 24 points and seven rebounds in her 36 minutes of play. She was followed by Hillary Carlson with 13 points and four blocked shots, while Jade Kennedy added ten points. Wyoming was 21-58 (.362) from the field, but just 8-23 (.348) from beyond the arc and 10-21 (.476) from the free throw line.

    UNLV was led by Markiell Syles with 13 points and 13 rebounds off the bench. Kelli Thompson had a team high 15 points, while Jamie Smith recorded 18 rebounds. The Lady Rebels were 20-67 (.299) from the field and out rebounded the Cowgirls 53-34.

    After two free throws by the Lady Rebels put them on the board, Wyoming responded with five straight points to give them a 5-2 advantage. UNLV would take the lead back, 6-5, with two quick baskets, but a Hillary Carlson layup put them back up 7-6. That would start a 7-1 run to extend the lead to seven, 14-7, through the second media timeout. Erica Helms would hit a shot for UNLV to end a three minute scoring drought. There wasn't a lot of scoring over the next several minutes as each team combined for five points as the Cowgirls continued to lead 16-13. Aubrey Vandiver would score the next five points for Wyoming to give them a 21-13 advantage. Both teams played evenly down the stretch as the Cowgirls would take a 28-21 lead into the locker room.

    Out of the halftime break, Wyoming went on a 6-2 run to extend their lead to double-figures, 34-23. The Lady Rebels scored the next six straight to pull within five, 34-29, through the first media timeout. UNLV would inch even close as they scored five of eight which made it 37-34. The Cowgirls would respond with the next seven points to regain a double-digit advantage, 44-34, with a little over 11 minutes to go in the game. UNLV would hit a free throw and then both teams would struggle putting points on the board. The Lady Rebels went over two minutes, while the Cowgirls went almost five minutes without a score. During that time, UNLV closed to within four, 44-40, but a three-point field goal by Jade Kennedy ended that run. Unfortunately, the Lady Rebels scored the next seven straight points to even it up at 47 all with 4:17 left to go in the game. Emma Langford would hit a basket to give the Cowgirls a two-point lead, 49-47, but a Mia Bell lay-up tied it up once again with 2:44 left in the game. Each team traded free throws to make it 51 all, but Jade Kennedy hit a three-point field goal to put Wyoming up 54-51. Sandrine Nzuekou knocked down two free throws to bring UNLV to within one, 54-53. Jade Kennedy would come up big again with a basket and free throw to make it 56-53 with 59.4 seconds left in the game. Two free throws gave the Cowgirls a 58-53 advantage with 8.4 seconds on the clock. UNLV would get a basket late, but Wyoming would hit a couple of free throws and hold onto the 60-55 win.

    The Cowgirls will now face the third seed San Diego State Aztecs, on Wednesday, March 10. The game is set for 8 p.m. MT and will be broadcast on The Mountain Sports Network.