Cowgirls See Hoop Title Hopes Slip Away against Nevada
By Justin Michael can be reached
LAS VEGAS- The Cowgirls run at a MW championship may be over, but the season has not officially come to an end. The team still hopes for an opportunity to play in the WNIT and would relish an opportunity to play postseason basketball.
“Hopefully our name is called in some fashion and if it is not, in the last week of the season, Wyoming played for a championship on the last game.”
The Cowgirls came up short last Friday night at Boise in the bid for the MWC regular-season title, and their bid to win the MWC Conference Tournament ended in a 67-63 loss to seventh-seeded Nevada on Wednesday night.
Twenty-four hours after erasing a 17-point deficit in a comeback victory over New Mexico on Tuesday, the Cowgirls didn't have that late-game magic against Nevada.
With 18 seconds left in the semi-final game and the score within a single possession, junior forward Sladjana Rakovic attempted to make a play on a loose ball that was heading for the sidelines. But instead of securing the rebound, Rakovic appeared to try to throw it off a Nevada defender. Unfortunately for Rakovic, the Nevada defender was able to avoid it and the play resulted in a turnover.
Once they had the ball back, the Wolfpack was ultimately able to knock down a pair of game-clinching free throws and secure the victory.
Led by the senior duo of T Moe and Teige Zeller, the Wolfpack will face Boise State in the time game Friday afternoon.
While the Cowgirls would have loved the opportunity to play the Broncos for a chance at the NCAA Tournament, they leave Las Vegas with their heads held high. Much like they did throughout the regular season, Wyoming battled for four quarters Wednesday, but this time they came up just a little bit short.
“I thought tonight’s game was similar to all of the games we’ve had against Nevada. They come down to one possession and the teams are matched very closely,” head coach Joe Legerski said in the post-game press conference. "(Wednesday) Nevada made an extra play that we were not able to make.”
Legerski, continued, “But so much of this season, this team and these two women next to me have made play after play to get us in this opportunity. Last week we were playing for a conference championship and it came down to the last possession. (Wednesday also) came down to the last possession. Sometimes it seems like it kind of evens out.”
The two players Legerski referenced sitting next to him were sophomore sophomore forward Taylor Rusk and senior guard Liv Roberts. Rusk led the team in scoring in the MW Tournament, totalling 17 points in the victory over the Lobos and adding 15 points on 7-of-12 shooting Wednesday.
“That’s a sophomore that is in her first year starting and I think she grew up a ton,” Legerski said. “One of the things that catches up with us is I played Taylor 39 minutes last night and I played her 38 minutes tonight. But as well as she played, she needed to be on the floor… I can’t say enough about that sophomore, whose only going to continue to get better and better.”
Roberts struggled Wednesday night, converting only 2-of-7 field goal attempts and recording 9 points. But her leadership skills and passion for the game of basketball are undeniable and she proved it at the podium after the loss. One of the first things the veteran guard did was take ownership in the fact that it was not her best performance, which is something her head coach praised her for.
“I’ll be the first to admit that I didn’t have the best game. You have to bring your best here, to win against the best,” Roberts said.
That senior leadership is what both players and coaches will most about Roberts and this senior class as a whole.
“For Liv Roberts-she had ACL surgery about 11 months ago,” Legerski said. “For her to come back in 6 months time and really end up being the player of the year, I can’t say enough about what she has accomplished. But that is pretty remarkable when you think of the short time frame she came back in. She is just a tremendous leader. She’s going to be a heck of an elementary school teacher and we are going to miss Liv.”