LAS VEGAS — The first Mountain West tournament championship for Wyoming’s women’s basketball program will have to wait.
The deepest run the Cowgirls have ever made in the tournament fell short of a title in a 68-51 loss to top-seeded Boise State in the MW tournament final Wednesday at the Thomas & Mack Center. The win earned Boise State the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament for the third straight year.
Meanwhile, Wyoming, which was bidding for its first NCAA appearance since 2008, will likely be relegated to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament for the third time in as many seasons. Considering the Cowgirls have won 13 of their last 16 games to match last season’s win total, Wyoming will almost certainly hear its name called when the WNIT field is announced Monday.
“Getting here and getting beat is never fun, but I think we need to stay with the fact that we actually made it here,” senior forward Marta Gomez said.
Gomez led Wyoming with a game-high 19 points, but the Cowgirls were no match for the Broncos’ balance after the teams split their meetings in the regular season. Tournament MVP Braydey Hodgins, who set a MW tournament scoring record two days earlier with 37 points in the Broncos’ quarterfinal win over Nevada, led four Boise State players in double figures with 16 points.
Wyoming handed Boise State one of its two conference losses in a 64-52 win back on Jan. 26 in Laramie, but the Cowgirls didn’t have many answers on either end of the floor Wednesday against a Broncos team that’s won two straight conference regular-season titles and four of the last five tournament championships.
Boise State shot 50 percent from the field and led by as many as 18 points. The Broncos were particularly accurate from deep, knocking down 57.1 percent (8 of 14) of their 3-pointers.
Boise State also scored 30 points in the paint, outrebounded the Cowgirls by 10 (31-21) and scored 15 points off 12 Wyoming turnovers.
Joyce Harrell added 12 points for Boise State while A’Shanti Coleman and Jayde Christopher chipped in 11 apiece. Karla Erjavec had eight points for Wyoming, which shot just 40 percent (18 of 45) from the field.
“I thought in tonight’s game, Boise State played as well as I’ve witnessed,” Wyoming coach Joe Legerski said. “I thought they were really the aggressor tonight and made us rush into some things that we normally take our time with.”
Wyoming led 5-2 after its first two possessions and went back and forth with Boise State the remainder of the first quarter, but the Broncos started to separate in the second. Boise State held the Cowgirls to two just field goals in the first 6 minutes, 53 seconds of the quarter and used an 11-4 run during that time to build a 29-17 lead.
“They had all the energy in that second quarter,” senior forward Bailee Cotton said. “It’s tough to come back when your shots aren’t falling and they’re getting everything that they shoot. … It was just tough to get our energy back.”
Boise State led by as many as 13 in the first half and took a 35-23 lead into the break after shooting 48.1 percent from the field in the first two quarters. Gomez had 12 points in the first half on 5-of-8 shooting, but the rest of the Cowgirls combined for just four field goals before the half.
It made for too deep of a hole against the best the league has to offer.
“There’s no doubt they were the better team tonight,” Legerski said, “and I think their experience of playing in these big games really makes a difference.”