Atop the Mountain West once again, the Wyoming women’s basketball team has survived the target on its back the past week, beating San Diego State and San Jose State. But things won’t get any easier.
With four games remaining in the regular season, and four Mountain West teams boasting 11 wins, the Cowgirls play Wednesday at one of the conference’s toughest venues, The Pit. New Mexico is in sixth place in the conference, though it’s also the only Mountain West team with 20 wins this season.
“It’s very important that we control the pace of the game,” Wyoming head coach Joe Legerski said. “We like the pace in the 60s, and we’re going to play against a team that likes the pace in the 80s. So, once again, we’re going to have to limit their opportunities and make the most of ours.”
Wyoming beat the Lobos in their first meeting, 65-55, but New Mexico is 16-1 at home this season.
“I think the biggest thing is we’re all just more comfortable at home and the environment you’re in,” Legerski said. “They have their fans, who are a tremendous fan base, and so we expect there to be 5, 6, 7,000 people in attendance. And so that energizes the home team. We find out that out with our fans.
“And so that’s where I think everybody just is more comfortable being at home. And when you look at their home record of being 16-1, we definitely have some challenges going into Albuquerque.”
Wyoming is coming off a thrilling comeback victory over San Jose State. Wyoming erased a 14-point deficit to score on a Marta Gomez turnaround bucket with 0.7 second remaining.
“The confidence level continues to grow,” Legerski said. “This team believes that they’re never out of a game. The challenge becomes is it seems that this whole league is that way. You’d better be at the top of your game each and every night or somebody can beat you.
“And I think that’s been shown with the number of close games that we’ve had all season long, which really speaks of the confidence that we play with and the belief that we’re going to make plays. We’ve made plays from a number of players, and that’s been a positive this whole season.”
Gomez was the first option on the play, Legerski said, and the way the play developed made Wyoming confident in its chances.
“I think the biggest thing is we have several options off every designed play, and so far, option number one has always been Marta,” Legerski said. “And if that option is open, Marta takes that option. If that option’s not open, then we go to options two, three or four.
“But there’s no doubt Marta plays with a tremendous amount of confidence, as do a number of our players. And so when you’re able to put them in the right position, it increases the chances for us to be able to score. And that’s been a big plus for us, and Marta’s definitely answered the call. But to say specifically, ‘We’re going to Marta,’ that’s not necessarily the case.”
Nonetheless, Gomez has a knock for the clutch shots. She hit a late 3 that led the Cowgirls to a win over Nevada earlier this year.
“She plays at a speed that allows you to have things unfold,” Legerski said. “And emotionally, she’s never too high or too low. And so she’s always in that position to be able to, what I believe is make a play that’s going to help your team. And she’s done it throughout. And even when she makes it, you don’t see a great deal of emotion from Marta. She just figures it’s just another part of the game. “