Northern Wyoming Daily News - Serving the Big Horn Basin for over 100 years

By Scott Nulph

A battle at the point

Wyoming-Utah State offers top point-guard match in conference


February 6, 2016

LARAMIE – If you like point-guard play, then today’s one-time-only matchup in Logan, Utah, is for you.

University of Wyoming senior Marquelle Dent and Utah State sophomore Funda Nakkasoglu will go head to head for the only time this regular season due to the Mountain West’s unbalanced schedule at 2 p.m. at the Dee Glenn Smith Spectrum.

This point-guard duel will not only be the best in the MW this season, but one of the best in the country.

Nakkasoglu leads the conference in scoring (21.0 ppg) and free-throw shooting (84.5 percent) and is fourth in assists (4.0 apg).

Dent is third in scoring (17.2 ppg), second in assists (5.3 apg) and sixth in steals (2.0 spg).

And both players average more than 34 minutes played a game, so it’s likely neither will be on the floor without each other.

“We know everything funnels through their point guard, just like it does with us,” UW coach Joe Legerski said. “(Nakkasoglu) gets to the free-throw line, she shoots threes, the ball’s in her hands all the time, just like it is with Marquelle.

“It’s two great point guards competing against each other.”

Both Dent and Nakkasoglu put up big numbers against each other last year.

In two games, Dent averaged 14.5 points and 6.5 assists, while Nakkasoglu averaged 22.5 points and 7.0 assists. Wyoming won both games, 86-51 in Laramie and 61-57 in Logan.

For Dent, today isn’t as much about matching up with Nakkasoglu as it is getting her swagger back.

After scoring in double figures in 37 straight games, Dent scored just six points in a home loss to Fresno State before rebounding with back-to-back 14-point efforts against Colorado State and Air Force.

On Wednesday, Dent did her damage in a season-low 19 minutes against the Falcons.

“I haven’t been playing good the past couple of games, and I knew I had to step it up and try to help the team,” Dent said after Wednesday’s win. “I’m trying to find people, but I know I need to get my game going a little bit more to help the team.”

The Cowgirls (11-10 overall, 4-7 MW) will attempt to snap a four-game conference road losing streak today.

In fact, Wyoming has won just three games away from Laramie this season and will likely need to find a way to pick up a couple of road wins down the stretch to avoid playing on the first day of the MW tournament.

“We just have to continue to get better every day,” Dent said. “We’re a really young group, so you kind of never know what you’re going to get. Every day we come out and compete and try and get better.”

The Cowgirls will see a different Utah State (10-11, 5-5 MW) team than they have in recent years under fifth-year coach Jerry Finkbeiner.

The Aggies have elected to go big in the starting lineup, adding 6-foot-4 sophomore Hannah Hutchins (6.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg) and 6-3 Julianne Anchling (6.7 ppg, 4.6 rpg) as starters.

The Aggies also feature 5-11 freshman starter Rachel Brewster (9.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg) and 6-4 senior Tijana Djukic (7.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg) off the bench.

Utah State’s length will be an issue for Wyoming, not only on the defensive end, but on offense as well.

“Utah State can put as many as three players as large as 6-3 on the floor with their zone, and it’s going to require us to shoot the basketball,” Legerski said. “That’s something that we’ve not done well on the road. We’re going to have to push the ball in transition to get some opportunities, and we have to be quick in our decision making.”


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