By Scott Nulph

UW tests what it learned over weekend

Cowgirls face third consecutive early start on road


November 29, 2017

LARAMIE – Teams often learn more about themselves in a loss rather than a win.

Weaknesses are exposed and teams are left with the knowledge that they might not be as good as they thought they were.

The University of Wyoming women's basketball team learned a lot about itself this past weekend then.

UW (4-2 overall) dropped back-to-back games in the UCF Thanksgiving Classic, losing 55-40 to Northern Iowa and 65-59 to IUPUI. In both losses, the Cowgirls trailed early and had to spend the majority of the games fighting uphill.

"Getting out to a good start in games is super important," UW senior forward Natalie Baker said. "And we learned what a challenge it is to be as great a team as we want to be. Those are the kinds of teams we're going to need to beat to win an MW championship, putting consecutive games back-to-back.

"We failed to do that this weekend so it was a good learning experience for us."

It wasn't all a negative for UW over the weekend, however. The Cowgirls also found out they have a pretty good rally reflex when needed.

Against UNI, the Cowgirls trailed the reigning Missouri Valley Conference champs between 3 and 7 points in the fourth quarter before the Panthers went on a 17-2 run to put the game away.

Against IUPUI, the Cowgirls fell behind by 18 during the second quarter before climbing all the way back to tie the game at 53-53 with just over five minutes to play.

"There's no quit in this group," Cowgirls coach Joe Legerski said. "To be down 18 points in the second quarter against IUPUI and make adjustments like we did, we did a great job of getting back into the ball game.

"We're still not the same team we were a year ago, we're still trying to get back to that level."

And maybe that's the biggest piece of knowledge from the weekend: the Cowgirls have a ways to go to reach the level of last season's team that finished second in the Mountain West.

"Everybody starts putting yourself in a position that you're not yet," Legerski said. "The hopes are always high and when you have a setback or two, it's not really who you are, nor was it who we were when we made 14 (3-pointers) against Drake."

Early start times aren't normal for college basketball teams and body clocks were another obstacle UW faced during its trip to Florida. The Northern Iowa game tipped off at 10 a.m. MST, while IUPUI started at 9 a.m. MST.

The Cowgirls face the same type of issue today when they travel to Bozeman, Montana, to take on Montana State. The game starts at 11 a.m. at Worthington Arena.

"We'll definitely be more ready playing at 11 a.m.," Baker said. "It's good having this game scheduled right after having played two early games before."

The Bobcats (3-2) were picked fourth in the Big Sky preseason poll and have won the past two Big Sky postseason tournaments.

Montana State had been led early on by 6-foot-2 sophomore forward Madeline Smith, who averages a double-double of 14.8 points and 11.0 rebounds. Senior guard Hannah Caudill is next at 11.8 points per game.

MSU has wins over Long Beach State, Providence, Montana, and MSU Billings so far this season with losses to Southern Cal and Omaha.

Montana State will represent the fourth consecutive opponent for UW that played in the postseason a year ago.

"Montana State is always around the top of the Big Sky and they're a solid program," Baker said. "Playing them on the road will be a challenge, but we're not afraid.

"Having played teams like IUPUI and Northern Iowa and Drake, we've played good teams that are very similar to Montana State."

UW's next home game is Sunday when it hosts Idaho State at 1 p.m. at the Arena-Auditorium.


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