(Editor’s note: University of Wyoming athletics release)
LARAMIE, Wyo. — Behind a career-high 28 points from senior Liv Roberts, the Wyoming basketball team (22-10 overall, 13-5 MW) earned a 67-59 victory against the New Mexico State Aggies (18-13 overall, 11-3 WAC) on Thursday night.
“Well I think is that’s what postseason is all about,” head coach Joe Legerski said. “The teams that are playing have won a great deal throughout the season. New Mexico State was the regular season champion of the Western Athletic Conference. They played tremendously. We were in control in the first half. They made a run, got the game down to three points, then Taylor (Rusk) really made some big plays. Her steal out on top, finish for the layup gave us a five point lead and got the crowd in to it. The crowd was just tremendous tonight and added a lot of energy. I also knew that Liv (Roberts) was excited to play in her first postseason game and you saw a senior really step up, felt comfortable. To have 22 points and shoot perfect from the field tells you she was focused.”
Roberts recorded a career-high 28 points along with six rebounds. Sophomore Taylor Rusk followed with 16 points while junior Bailee Cotton chipped in ten points and seven rebounds. Senior Natalie Baker finished with a game-high eight rebounds. UW out rebounded the Aggies, 33-24, but committed 17 turnovers.
New Mexico State was led by junior Brooke Salas with 21 points and eight rebounds. Sophomore Gia Pack followed with 20 points followed by sophomore Aaliyah Prince with 11 points. The Aggies were 22-of-58 (.379) from the field and 12-of-15 (.800) from the charity stripe.
Wyoming got in the scoring column early with the first six points of the game. Salas got the Aggies on the board at the 5:33 mark. The Cowgirls responded with a 10-3 run with eight of the points coming from Roberts to extend the lead to double-figures, 16-5. UW continued to maintain a double-figure lead over the next several minutes holding a 21-9 advantage late in the first quarter. Five straight points by New Mexico State closed the gap to seven, 21-14, early in the second quarter. A basket by sophomore Selale Kepenc ended the Cowgirl scoring drought, but NMSU pulled to within six, 23-17. Wyoming scored six of the next nine points to regain a double-digit lead, 29-19, with 4:27 on the clock. The Aggies went on another run to make it a five point contest, 29-24. The teams played even the remainder of the way as Wyoming took a 35-30 lead in to the locker room.
In the first half, Roberts led all scorers with 22 while shooting 7-7 from the field, 3-3 from beyond the arc and 5-5 from the charity stripe. Cotton brought down a team-high four rebounds while adding four points. The Cowgirls were 12-of-23 (.522) from the field and 4-of-11 (.364) from three. UW out rebounded New Mexico State 17-13 and ten points in the paint. The Aggies were led by Salas with 16 points followed by Pack with seven and four rebounds. NMSU shot 11-of-29 (.379) from the field and 1-of-13 (.077) from three.
New Mexico State opened up the third quarter on an 8-5 run to make it a two-point contest, 40-38. The Cowgirls scored the next six straight to extend it back to eight, 46-38. The scoring went back and forth the remainder of the quarter as Wyoming took a 53-48 lead in to the fourth quarter. Prince scored the next five points to start off the quarter to tie it up at 53. Started by a Cotton bucket, the Cowgirls scored the next six points to get it back up to 59-53. NMSU continued to battle and made it a one possession game, 59-56. After a turnover on the UW end, Rusk responded with a steal and layup to get it back to a five point lead, 61-56. The Cowgirls closed out the game with four free throws and a layup to hold on to the eight-point win, 67-59.
Wyoming now moves on to a match-up on Sunday with UC Davis. The game is scheduled for 2 p.m. MT in the Arena-Auditorium.