LARAMIE, Wyo. – Behind career nights from junior Bailee Cotton and sophomore Taylor Rusk, the Wyoming basketball team (20-7 overall, 13-3 MW) Fresno State Bulldogs (16-12 overall, 11-6 MW) on Saturday afternoon in Laramie. The Cowgirls have now recorded back-to-back 20 win seasons and 13 conference wins ties for the most in school history.
“I’m extremely proud of this team,” head coach Joe Legerski said. “The challenge against Fresno State is immense. The pressure they apply, changed up the way they wanted to trap us, and we had to change offensively in order to have people in position to attack. At halftime, we shot 50 percent and they were 35 percent and we are only up seven. You start worrying that you’re shooting that well and can’t get some distance between you and your opponent. In the third quarter, we started making shots, attacked differently, made adjustments and went inside more. When you are 22 assists on 27 made baskets, we were finding the open people.”
Cotton recorded her fourth double-double of the season with a career-high 19 points and 12 rebounds. Rusk tied her career high as well with 19 points. She was 7-of-10 (.700) from the field and 5-of-7 (.714) from beyond the arc. Senior Liv Roberts added 16 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Wyoming shot 27-of-49 (.551) from the field and 7-of-15 (.467) from beyond the arc. The Cowgirls had 22 assists on 27 baskets, 17 points off turnovers and out rebounded Fresno State 39-22.
“Taylor (Rusk) gave us a big lift today. For her to go 5-7 from three, 7-10 total for a career high 19 points that’s a great effort. We were able to find her when we broke the pressure. The first time when we played Fresno State we were just happy to break the press and today I thought we attacked. Bailee (Cotton) had a huge game for us. We really did a good job on the inside and got off to a good start. There are a number of players that continue to step up on both ends of the court.”
The Bulldogs were led by redshirt sophomore Jordanna Porter with a game-high 20 points off the bench. Junior Candice White followed with 15 points while sophomore Kristina Cavey finished with ten points. Fresno State shot 22-of-58 (.379) from the field and 10-of-24 (.417) from three.
Cotton got the Cowgirls in a scoring column first which was answered with a three by Knishka. UW responded with a 6-0 run to regain an 8-3 lead. A basket by Cavey ended a five minute scoring drought for the Bulldogs and started a small run to close the gap to one, 8-7, through the first media timeout. UW hit two baskets out of the break to go ahead by six, 13-7. Fresno State scored five of the next seven to pull within three, 15-12. The Cowgirls scored ten straight to increase it to double-digits, 25-12, early in the second quarter. With the score 28-15 in favor of UW, the Bulldogs went on an 11-0 run to make it a two-point contest, 28-26. A basket by senior Natalie Baker followed by a three from Rusk ended a four minute scoreless stretch to increase it back to seven, 33-26. Each team hit a basket to close out the half with Wyoming taking a 35-28 lead in to the locker room.
Cotton led all Cowgirls in the first half with ten points and seven rebounds. Rusk followed with nine while junior Marta Gomez and Roberts had six points. UW was 15-of-29 (.517) from the field and 5-of-7 (.714) from three. Fresno State was led by Porter who had 11. Cavey followed with eight while Utti had a team-high four rebounds. The Bulldogs shot 11-of-32 (.344) from the field and 5-of-13 (.385) from three.
The Cowgirls came out solid to begin the third quarter scoring the first 13 points to double-up the Bulldogs, 48-28. A basket by White at the 3:40 mark ended the Fresno State scoring struggles and started a small run to close the deficit to 14, 54-40, but a late basket by Rusk made the score 56-40 after three quarters. Wyoming scored six of the next ten points to push the lead to 18, 62-44, with 7:35 on the clock. The Bulldogs scored 11 of 17 to pull within 13, 68-55, but that’s as close as it would get. The Cowgirls outscored Fresno State 6-2 in the final 3:26 to earn the 74-57 victory.
Wyoming will be out on the road for the first of its two final MW games on Tuesday against the Air Force Falcons. The game is set for 7 p.m. MT at Clune Arena in Colorado Springs.