LARAMIE — Bailee Cotton and Taylor Rusk each tied career highs with 19 points in Wyoming’s win against Fresno State. But 20 might have been the most significant number of the day.
With the win, the Cowgirls now have 20 on the season, a mark they have reached in nine of Joe Legerski’s 15 years as head coach at Wyoming.
“I’d have never known that,” Legerski said. “I’m always just worried about today’s game, and I leave that up to (the media). But there will be a time when this is all over that I’ll probably remember that and think back about that. We’ve had a lot of good kids play here, and so many kids buy into what we talk about.
“And that’s the big part. Sharing the basketball, 22 assists on 27 field goals. That’s not unusual for us. And everybody has to give up a little bit of their game for the betterment of the team, and I think I’ve been able to have that over the years.
“So if you tell me it’s nine out of 15, I would have never known that, but it says I’ve had a lot of good players that have bought into what we’re doing. And I’ve learned a long time ago, this game’s about players and fitting in and doing what is asked of them. And the ones that accept that really seem to excel in the way I like to play.”
The win also gave Wyoming 13 Mountain West wins this season, matching the record the Cowgirls set last season.
Legerski said he’d take a little time to savor Saturday’s 74-57 win, the Cowgirls’ highest-scoring game in Mountain West play. But there’s still work to do, with games at Air Force and against Boise State left on the schedule in the regular season. If the Cowgirls win both, they will have a Mountain West regular season championship to their names.
“I’m going to enjoy this one today also,” Legerski said. “This is one that had me worried. As soon as we played New Mexico and that one was over, I worried about Fresno for the last 72 hours. And before that was New Mexico, and I’ll start worrying about Air Force as soon as I walk away from here.”
The Cowgirls have now won six straight games, and that’s not even their longest winning streak of the conference season. Wyoming won seven straight Mountain West games after beginning conference season with a loss at San Diego State.
Even the Mountain West teams that have beaten Wyoming have had their struggles with the Cowgirls. The Aztecs lost by 20 when the teams met in Laramie, and Fresno State beat the Cowgirls in Fresno, California, but trailed by as many as 20 points Saturday. And Colorado State, the one Mountain West team to beat Wyoming at the Arena-Auditorium thus far, lost its home game against Wyoming.
The Cowgirls only face Air Force once this season and already won at Boise State, meaning they cannot be swept in any two-game Mountain West series this season.
Wyoming’s approach against Fresno State the second time around was far more interior-based, which meant the Cowgirls would need to play more physical. That didn’t prove to be much of a challenge for Cotton or senior Liv Roberts, who scored 16 points.
Legerski said that has been an evolution in the demeanor of his players.
“I think we’ve got a couple players that play with a little edge,” Legerski said. “You take a look at Bailee, you take a look at Liv, Sladjana (Rakovic), Clara (Tapia), physicalness doesn’t bother them. In fact, they like being in a physical game. And so that’s something that’s important, and I think that’s something that’s changed.
“There’s no doubt, when Liv’s gone, we’re going to lose that. But it’s nice to know that Clara, Bailee and Sladjana are still around, because they do play with that same edge.”
Cotton also matched a career high with 12 rebounds.
“I think it’s just toughness,” she said of the Cowgirls’ physicality, “and I think it’s coming out with a lot of energy.”