Wyoming Cowgirls drop finale at New Mexico, Cowboys host Lobos Saturday

(UW Athletics release)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – The Cowgirls (20-7, 13-5 MW) wrapped up the regular season with a grinding, 57-50, loss against the Lobos (24-5, 14-4 MW) on New Mexico’s “Senior Night.” With the result, the Cowgirls will enter the Mountain West Tournament as the No. 3 seed, starting play on Monday after a first round bye.
 
“You have to give New Mexico credit, defensively, tonight,” said head coach Joe Legerski. “It was a struggle for anybody to get open looks, then we had them and we were rushing some things. When I look back at this, there were some missed opportunities, but I liked the way we defended and gave ourselves a chance. When you take a look at each quarter, it’s either a pusher or we’re down a point or two, and when you add it all up, it’s a 57-50 loss.”
 
The Cowgirls were led offensively by senior Sladjana Rakovic and junior Taylor Rusk, who each scored 10 points. Rusk added a team-high three points, while Rakovic had her first-career double-double with a career-high 14 rebounds.
 
Senior Bailee Cotton scored eight points with nine rebounds, while Freshman Karla Erjavec scored six points.
 
The Cowgirls shot a season-low 31.7 percent (20-of-63) from the field, a season-low 10.5 percent (2-of-19) from the field and 66.7 percent (8-of-12) from the free throw line. Wyoming had 8 assists and 12 turnovers.
 
The Lobos were led by Jaisa Nunn’s 26 points and 13 rebounds, while Antonia Anderson scored eight with four rebounds.
 
New Mexico shot 46.0 percent (23-of-50) from the field, 21.4 percent (3-of-14) from three and 50.0 percent (8-of-16) from the free throw line. The Lobos had 14 assists and 13 turnovers on the night.
 
The Lobos got on the board first to start the game with a free throw, but a Tapia three gave the Cowgirls a 3-1 lead early. The Cowgirls took an 8-4 lead after a Rusk three, but a quick 4-0 run for the Lobos tied it up. Rusk converted an old-fashioned three point play, but New Mexico took a 14-13 lead after a layup. Freshman Tereza Vitulova added a pair of free throws, but a Lobo three on the last possession gave the home team the 17-15 lead after the first quarter.
 
Rakovic scored a layup to start the second frame, but New Mexico answered right back with a Nunn layup. Tapia added a free throw before Nunn scored another layup, and the Lobos held a 21-18 lead at the 3:49 media timeout. Vitulova ended a long Cowgirl scoring drought to cut the Lobo lead to 25-20 at the end of the second quarter.
 
Gomez opened the second half’s scoring with a layup off a nice feed from Erjavec, however, the Lobos scored four straight to respond. The Cowgirls scored four of their own in a row, and the teams traded baskets until the Lobos lead 33-28 with 4:57 to play in the third quarter. Cotton ended a 6-2 Lobo run with a layup, but New Mexico responded to preserve their lead, 41-32, at the 1:04 mark of the third quarter. The Cowgirls scored six of the next eight points – four from Erjavec – and the Lobos held a 43-38 lead at the end of three.
 
Freshman Quinn Weidemann scored the first points of the fourth quarter at the free throw line, and the Cowgirls trimmed to a single-possession game, 43-40. However, the Lobos scored five straight to push the lead to 48-40 and force a Cowgirl timeout with 5:41 to play. Rusk scored in the paint out of the timeout, but the Lobos converted a layup of their own. Rakovic scored a pair of quick layups to force a Lobo timeout, as New Mexico led 52-46 at the 2:40 mark.
 
Rakovic scored again to cut it to four, but Nunn stepped out for three to extend the lead to 55-48 with 1:28 to play. Again, Rakovic, scored a driving layup, and the Cowgirls started the foul game with 29.2 to play. The Lobos made their shots and earned the 57-50  victory.
 
The Cowgirls will return to the hardwood at the 2019 Mountain West Championships, held Sunday through Wednesday, March 10-13, in Las Vegas, Nev. The Cowgirl will have a bye on Sunday and will await their quarterfinal foe following Sunday’s first-round games.

The Cowboys, meantime, close out their regular season on Saturday hosting New Mexico at 4 p.m. Wyoming will honor its two seniors in Justin James and Jordan Naughton prior to the contest, as the duo has appeared in a combined 218 games.

Saturday’s contest will feature up to 50% off all concessions including beer and wine. Tickets are available to Saturday’s game by: going online at GoWyo.com/tickets, emailingtickets@uwyo.edu, calling 307-766-7220 or stopping by the UW Athletics Ticket Office on the west side of the Arena-Auditorium

The contest will be available on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN App. Fans can listen and follow love stats on GoWyo.com. The game will be broadcast live on radio over the 25 affiliate stations of the Cowboy Sports Network, as Dave Walsh and Kevin McKinney will call the action.

Wyoming heads into the game with a 7-23 overall record and a 3-14 mark in the MW. The Pokes picked up an 81-71 road win over San Jose State on Wednesday. It marked the first road win for Wyoming this season.

The Cowboys hit 11 three-pointers in the contest and have hit double-digit three pointers in back-to-back games. Wyoming has connected on 230 three pointers on the season. The Pokes recorded only eight turnovers against the Spartans and have under 10 turnovers in back-to-back games accomplishing the feat for the first time this season.

The Lobos head into the game with a 13-16 overall record and a 7-10 mark in Mountain West play. New Mexico defeated Boise State in “The Pit” on Wednesday by a score of 73-72 and are winners of two straight.

New Mexico is third in the MW in rebounding at 37.5 per game. The Lobos grab 11.2 offensive rebounds per game to rank second in the conference. UNM averages 9.2 three point field goals made per game on the season to rank second in the conference and No. 51 in the nation.

Wyoming is led in scoring, rebounding and assists by senior guard Justin James. He leads the MW in scoring at 21.6 points per game, which ranks No. 23 in the nation. He grabs 8.5 rebounds per game for sixth in the MW and adds 4.5 assists per game for fourth in the league. He also leads the MW in steals at 1.5 per game and has 45 on the season. He became the sixth player to score 2,000 in the history of the MW after scoring 25 points at San Jose State.

Junior guard Jake Hendricks adds 10.9 points per game and leads the Pokes with 62 three pointers on the year. Hendricks is averaging 35.7 minutes per game, which ranks second on the Pokes behind James. He hit six threes on Saturday against Air Force and six more at SJSU. He ranks eighth in the MW with his 62 made threes, as he missed 10 games earlier this season.

The Lobos are led in scoring by Anthony Mathis at 14.8 points per game. An excellent three point shooter, Mathis leads the league at 3.4 makes per game and has made 100 on the season. He ranks No. 14 in the nation with his 3.4 makes per game. Vance Jackson adds 12.4 points per game on the season. He also ranks tenth in the MW averaging 6.9 rebounds per game to lead the Lobos.

The Cowboys trail in the all-time series 67-72 in a series that dates back to 1950. The Pokes are 40-25 against New Mexico in Laramie. The Lobos took the first meeting of the season on Jan. 19 by a score of 83-53.

The Cowboys open the 2019 Air Force Reserve Mountain West Basketball Championship on Wednesday with an opponent and game time to be determined.

 

Scott Breen

Scott Breen

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