LARAMIE — With his team riding a two-game losing streak, after having just won seven straight, Joe Legerski gave Marleah Campbell a heads up.
“I (told) Marleah that she was going to play,” said Legerski, the head coach of the Wyoming women’s basketball team. “I don’t like to just all of a sudden at game day throw somebody in there. Give her a couple days to think about it. She’d been practicing very well.”
Campbell had played a total of seven minutes in Wyoming’s previous seven games, not seeing the floor in six of them. Wednesday at Utah State, she played 15 minutes and scored 10 points, something she hadn’t done all season. Then, Saturday against UNLV, which boasted the best record in the conference, Campbell played 17 minutes and scored 11 points.
“The mindset’s always been the same,” Campbell said, “which is, ‘When you’re called upon, you’re supposed to produce.’ I wasn’t called upon for a while, but kept working hard in practice. And the last couple games, I’ve just been trying to to do anything I can to help the team win.”
Campbell isn’t the only Wyoming senior picking it up of late. Natalie Baker had gone the entire calendar year without posting a double-digit scoring total before the Utah State game. She scored 21 against the Aggies and 11 against the Rebels.
“For Natalie, she’s just really started to play like the Natalie we’ve known,” Legerski said. “So that’s a big plus for us.”
Baker shot 3-of-5 from 3-point range against UNLV and 4-of-8 overall. She also had six rebounds, tied for a team high.
“I think at Utah State I gained a lot of confidence and I’m just learning to carry that over throughout games,” Baker said. “So I need to just keep doing that and keep learning and carrying over game to game.”
Throw in 21 points from Liv Roberts, the team’s leading scorer, and Wyoming seniors accounted for 43 of Wyoming’s 69 points against UNLV. They were the team’s only three double-digit scorers.
“Well, once again, when you take a look at what Natalie’s done this season, Marleah, and to be able to get 22 points out of (those two) seniors today, and then you see that we win by 13,” Legerski said, “that right now is the difference in what’s happening for us. And we’ve got the bench numbers back up, which is a big plus. But having senior leadership out there (is important).”
Campbell’s 21 points in Wyoming’s past two games surpassed her total from the entire season until that point (16). Those are also the two games in which she has played the most minutes. Saturday, nine of her points came on three 3-pointers, her only three attempts behind the arc. She was 4-of-5 overall.
“Marleah played very calmly,” Legerski said. “Made three 3s, two in the first half where all the emotion was, but she had a big one in the second half when we needed to stop a run. And so there were some things about watching what Marleah’s doing, what Natalie’s doing, and I’m happy for both of them.”
It’s a formula Legerski plans to stick with.
“We’re going to keep with that rotation and keep playing it,” he said.
Back on top
It’s been streaky, but the Cowgirls find themselves in first place in the Mountain West with six games left to play in the regular season.
“When you take a look at it, I thought it was really difficult, the start of our schedule,” Legerski said. “And then to look at the last three weeks. They’re very difficult. It’s going to be a big challenge all the way through. And I know we talk about just — we don’t even talk about one game at a time. We talk about 5 minutes at a time. We even break it down further.
“And so we’ll enjoy this victory today, but it all starts back on Monday, because whatever we can earn, as we always talk about, it’s either one win or one loss in the column. You don’t get extra points. And so we got a big win today, but we’re going to have to come back and play well again on Wednesday.”
The Cowgirls host San Diego State at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.