(Editor’s note: University of Wyoming media release)
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Feb. 27, 2018) – The Wyoming basketball team (20-8 overall, 13-4 MW) suffered a setback and had its six-game winning streak snapped with a 57-47 loss against the Air Force Falcons (4-24 overall, 4-13 MW) on Tuesday night. It’s the first loss for a Cowgirl team against the Falcons since Feb. 5, 2005 when they dropped a 69-66 overtime contest.
“We knew Air Force would come out and get after us,” head coach Joe Legerski said. “You have to make strong cuts, get to the basket and score points. I thought Taylor (Rusk) played really well tonight. We had to play her 38 minutes because we were short Liv (Roberts), which had a big effect on us as anything. Clara (Tapia) going 5-8 from the field which was big production from her. We had to ask her to defend but try to attack offensively. When I look at it, we were 2-of-10 from three and had two good looks down the stretch, executed and just didn’t make the shots. It’s disappointing to me that we’ve made those shots all year long. We did try but you have to produce when your number is called. There were some missed opportunities that we missed what I call easy baskets. Give Air Force credit they came out and got after us.”
Junior Clara Tapia and sophomore Taylor Rusk led the way for the Cowgirls with ten points each. Senior Natalie Baker followed with nine points and eight rebounds, while junior Bailee Cotton had a team-high nine rebounds. Wyoming shot 19-of-48 (.396) from the field and 2-of-10 (.200) from beyond the arc. UW also committed 13 turnovers on the night.
Air Force was led by freshman Kaelin Immel who recorded a game-high 19 points. Freshman Emily Conroe finished with 13 points and 12 rebounds while senior Cortney Porter chipped in 11 points. The Falcons shot 22-of-54 (.407) from the field and 10-of-12 (.833) from the free throw line.
Tapia and Immel got each team in the scoring column early with the Cowgirls taking an early 4-2 advantage. It was a struggle for both teams over the next several minutes until a field goal by Cotton ended a four minute drought for Wyoming. Air Force went almost eight minutes before a 6-0 run by the Falcons put them up 8-6 early in the second quarter. Free throws by Baker ended a seven-minute scoreless stretch and the Cowgirls would score the next six straight to pull ahead by four, 12-8. Air Force scored 11 of the next 15 points to give them a three-point advantage, 19-16, with a minute left in the quarter. A jumper by Baker would pull the Cowgirls to within one, 19-18, at the half.
In the first half, Baker led all Cowgirl scorers with six points and four rebounds. Tapia followed with four points and four others with two. Wyoming shot 8-of-21 (.381) from the field and 0-of-3 (.000) from beyond the arc, while committing seven turnovers in the half. Air Force was led by Immel with eight points while Conroe brought down six rebounds. The Falcons were 9-of-28 (.321) from the field and out rebounded UW, 18-15.
Cotton hit a basket right out of the break to put Wyoming up one, 20-19, and started a 9-5 run to give them a three-point advantage, 27-24. The Falcons continued to hang around eventually took the lead at 32-31, but a basket by Gomez and one of two free throws by Baker made it 34-32. A late three by junior Venessannah Itugbu at the buzzer put Air Force back up by one, 35-34, after three quarters. A field goal by the Cowgirls gave them the lead back, 36-35, but the Falcons went on an 11-0 run to go ahead by double-figures, 46-36. Tapia ended a five minute scoring drought and Wyoming tried to cut in to the lead scoring nine of the next 12 to make it 49-45 with 1:24 left on the clock. Unfortunately, Air Force knocked down eight straight free throws and the Cowgirls ran out of possessions falling by the final of 57-47.
Wyoming will close out the Mountain West regular season on Friday against the Boise State Broncos. The game is set for 6:30 p.m. MT at the Arena-Auditorium.