Cowgirls Refuse to Lose, stun New Mexico in MWC Tourney
By Justin Michael
@JustinTMichael on twitter
LAS VEGAS- It was a tale of two halves Tuesday night. Nothing about the victory came easy but after erasing a 15-point halftime deficit, the No. 3 seeded Cowgirls advanced to the Mountain West Tournament semifinals with a 69-66 victory over No. 6 seed New Mexico.
Behind a big performance from sophomore forward Taylor Rusk and the Cowgirls senior leaders, The Cowgirls, who trailed by 17 points at one point in the second quarter, outscored UNM by 18 (51-33) in the second half to secure the win and advance to face the seventh-seeded Nevada Wolfpack Wedesday night.
“When we were down 15 (points) at the half, there didn’t seem to be a great deal of panic in the locker room,” head coach Joe Legerski said. “If you look up and see you are down 15 points, that’s a pretty big task against a team that is as talented as New Mexico.”
The Cowgirls, however, did enough and enjoyed their first victory in the MWC tournament since 2015.
“What we talked about was we needed to become more aggressive, attack the basket," Legerski said. "Once again, we just fell back to winning five minutes at a time."
Legerski praised Rusk for keeping her composure throughout the contest and never panicking or trying to do too much with the basketball. When the Cowgirls struggled to get anything going from beyond the arc in the first two quarters, Rusk took matters into her own hands and consistently drove to the hoop.
When the final buzzer sounded, Rusk totalled a career-best 21 points on 9-of-18 shooting and also added eight rebounds and four assists in 39 minutes played.
“I thought that Taylor Rusk played exceptional tonight,” Legerski said. “She was the player out there that seemed very calm, got things going and really went to the basket.”
Following the victory, the sophomore guard from Highlands Ranch, Colo. explained that the team needed to calm down and “play with some fire”. After losing a pair of tough games to conclude the regular season, the team was not ready to go home and hang it up just yet.
Rusk was among four Wyoming players finished the night in double-digits. Senior guard Liv Roberts, who suffered an ankle sprain with 4:35 to play in the third quarter but returned less than three minutes later, finished with 11 points and six rebounds. Senior Natalie Baker had 14 points and eight rebounds .
“I thought the seniors took over,” Legerski added. “For Natalie, Liv, they knew they had to compete. They knew they wanted to continue to play. This is it for them. This time of year, you do fall upon your seniors. I thought they played extremely well.
Junior Marta Gomez scored 13 points, 10 of them in the final 7:07 of the game..
The Cowgirls will look to move to 3-0 against the Wolfpack this season in Wednesday’s semifinal at 10 p.m. (MST). The game will be streamed by going to kfbcradio.com and clicking "listen now" at the top of the page.