(UW Athletics release)
LARAMIE, Wyo. – The Wyoming Cowgirls (22-8, 13-5 MW) are set to begin their run in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament (WNIT) on Thursday, when they host Northern Colorado (21-10, 15-5 Big Sky) at 6:30 p.m. in the Arena-Auditorium. The Cowgirls are playing in the WNIT for the third-consecutive season, joining the 2006-08 squads as the only instances of three seasons in a row of postseason action.
The game will be broadcast live on the Mountain West Network, and can be heard across the 25 stations of the Cowgirl Radio Network with Reece Monaco on play-by-play and Wyoming Hall of Famer Margie McDonald with color commentary.
The Cowgirls are 22-8 this season and 13-5 in the Mountain West coming off a 51-68 loss to Boise State in the MW Championship game. The Cowgirls are led offensively by senior forward Marta Gomez, a MW all-conference performer who averages 16.2 points per game while adding 4.7 rebounds per contest. Senior forward Bailee Cotton averages nearly a double-double with 11.2 points per contest and pulling down a team best 8.68 rebounds per game. Cotton has also taken a team-leading 19 charges this season. Junior Taylor Rusk is scoring 9.3 points per contest while adding 98 assists and only 34 turnovers, the 14th-best assist-to-turnover ratio in the country. Freshman guard Karla Erjavec leads the team in the assist department with 113 on the year, and she was named to the league’s all-freshman team. Defensively, Rusk has recorded 30 steals this season, while Cotton has 28 blocks and 43 steals and was named the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year.
Offensively, the Cowgirls are shooting at a 45.3 percent (750-of-1,654) clip from the field while shooting 39.5 percent (213-of-539) from three and 77.8 percent (322-of-414) from the free throw line to average 67.8 points per game. The Cowgirls average 15.9 assists and just 11.5 turnovers per game. Opponents are shooting 41.4 percent (664-of-1,605) from the field, 31.3 percent (130-of-415) from three and 69.2 percent (245-of-354) from the free throw line to average 56.8 points per game. Cowgirl foes average 9.7 assists and 13.8 turnovers per game.
Head coach Joe Legerski is in his 16th year at the helm of the Cowgirls, and he has compiled a 311-185 record as Wyoming’s head coach. He is the winningest coach in program history.
The Bears enter the WNIT with a 21-10 record after going 15-5 in Big Sky play. The Bears are led by Savannah Smith, who averages 23.5 points per game, 4.5 assists per game and 2.0 steals per contest. Alexis Chapman also scores in double-figures, averaging 12.8 points per game and pulling down 3.4 rebounds per contest. Krystal Leger-Walker directs the offense, handing out 5.6 assists per game to go along with 8.7 points. Ali Meyer averages 6.8 points and a team-best 11.1 rebounds and 0.8 blocks per contest.
The Bears are shooting 40.8 percent (777-of-1,905) from the field, 32.4 percent (248-of-765) from three and 69.7 percent (333-of-478) from the free throw line to average 68.9 points per game. Northern Colorado dishes out 13.2 assists per game as a team with 14.1 turnovers. Opponents are shooting 39.1 percent (713-of-1,823) from the field, 33.0 percent (197-of-597) from three and 72.0 percent (375-of-521) from the charity stripe to average 64.5 points per game. Bears foes are averaging 11.6 assists and 13.9 turnovers per contest.
Head coach Jenny Huth is in her first season at Northern Colorado and as a head coach after spending eight seasons as an assistant at UCLA.
The Cowgirls lead the Bears in the all-time series between the two schools, 18-9, however Northern Colorado won the most recent matchup in the 2013 WNIT, 71-63. Overall, the Cowgirls are 11-6 against the Bears in Laramie, having won five of the last six games here at 7,220 feet. In 1987 during Wyoming’s 95-69 win, Lisa Daniels set a single-game school record with 18 assists. In that same game, Michele Hoppes scored 33 points, tied for the seventh most in a single game in school history.
With a win, the Cowgirls will face the winner of the game between Lamar and South Alabama.