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

By Scott Nulph

Defending home court

Cowgirls rout Lady Rebels for 2-0 start to Mountain West play


January 3, 2017

COURTESY/ SHANNON BRODERICK/ Boomerang photographer

Wyoming guard Liv Roberts shoots over UNLV guard Brooke Johnson during Saturday's game at the Arena-Auditorium.

LARAMIE – When a basketball team is playing with as much defensive confidence as the University of Wyoming women's team, even when things break down occasionally there's little panic.

The Cowgirls dominated UNLV on Saturday in their Mountain West home opener 79-57 at Arena-Auditorium, building a double-digit lead in the first quarter and leading by 20 at halftime.

Yet twice in the second half – at the beginning of the third and fourth quarters – UNLV made serious runs against UW, pulling within 13 points each time. Each time the Cowgirls bowed up on the defense end, hit a couple of key shots, and re-established control of the game.

UW (10-3 overall, 2-0 MW) has started conference play 2-0 for the first time since the 2010-11 season. UNLV (9-4, 0-2 MW) has lost three of its last four since losing starting point guard Nikki Wheatley to a knee injury two weeks ago.

"When your focus is on the defense and understand that the offense just happens, that's what you're starting to see with this team," Cowgirls coach Joe Legerski said. "They always believe that they're going to win, and that's a great deal of confidence to carry with a team."

UW junior Liv Roberts continues to make an early push for MW Player of the Year mention by scoring a career-high 26 points – the third time she's set a new career scoring mark this season – and led the team with eight rebounds.

Roberts also set a career mark for field goals made by going 9 of 12 from the field and was a perfect 4 of 4 from beyond the arc.

Roberts' biggest points came early in the fourth quarter after the Lady Rebels had outscored the Cowgirls 9-1 during the first 2 minutes, 46 seconds to cut a 21-point lead to 13.

After UW sophomore Marta Gomez halted the run with a 3-pointer, Roberts scored the team's next eight points to push the lead back to 20 with a little more than 4 minutes to play.

"UNLV was one to get up for because they were ahead of us in the conference to start with," Roberts said. "I think our defense once again showed what we bring each night."

Gomez added 18 points and a career-high four assists. After scoring in double figures in just two of the Cowgirls' first eight games, Gomez has hit double figures in each of the last six, averaging 14.5 points in that span.

"I wasn't that confident at the beginning of the year and I don't really know why," Gomez said. "Now my confidence is back and I want to do whatever I can to help the team."

Added Legerski on Gomez's play: "I've seen this happen before when the game slows down and all of the sudden the player becomes very comfortable with what they're doing and how they're playing. She's making the game easier right now."

Junior forward Natalie Baker added 10 points and six rebounds and freshman guard Taylor Rusk chipped in nine points off the bench. UW sophomore point guard Clara Tapia dished out eight assists and has 15 in her last two games.

Defensively, UW limited UNLV to 21 first-half points in building a 41-21 halftime edge.

"I thought the first quarter set the tone," Legerski said. "We were as good defensively as we could be trying to make sure every shot was contested,"

The Cowgirls limited the Lady Rebels to 41.5 percent from the field (22 of 53) for the game and just 3 of 8 on 3-pointers. Junior guard Dakota Gonzalez led the Lady Rebels with 19 points and sophomore forward Katie Powell had 10.

"We knew they (UNLV) like to drive and we just had to help the person that's getting beat," Roberts said. "They don't normally kick it (the ball) out to a shooter and we did a good job of not giving them many open shots."

UW will remain at home for its next game, hosting Fresno State at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Free throws

UW improved to 7-1 at home this season. ... The win by the Cowgirls evened the overall series with UNLV at 22-22, with UW winning the last five games in Laramie. ... Oddly enough, the game marked the first one played on a Saturday for UW this season. ... Roberts passed the 300-rebound mark in her career with her eight Saturday. She now has 305. ... UW recorded assists on 22 of the team's 25 made baskets.


Liv Roberts: The UW junior guard set her career high in points for the third time this season with 26 points and added eight rebounds in the win. Roberts was 9 of 12 from the field (4 of 4 on 3s) and 4 of 5 on free throws.


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