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Cowgirls at MW tournament

Wyoming’s Natalie Baker drives against Fresno State in their game at the Mountain West Basketball Tournament last year at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

LAS VEGAS — The Wyoming women’s basketball team began last week with a shot at its first regular-season Mountain West title. Instead, the Cowgirls went 0-for-2 and finished third, inched out by Boise State and UNLV in the league’s jam-packed peak. Now, the Wyoming Cowgirls would like nothing more than to move on to the conference tournament.

“It was a bummer of a week, losing to Air Force and Boise State as well,” said senior forward Liv Roberts, who Monday was named the Mountain West player of the year. “But Air Force, we just didn’t play well. So that one’s hard to recover from. It’s easier to recover from games that you played exceptionally well. And we just talked about how Boise State played better than us. There’s nothing you can do about that.

“... There’s been lots of positivity coming into Vegas and we talked about how this is just time to reset.”

The only issue is that Wyoming doesn’t yet know which team to give its focus.

Tuesday (9:30 p.m. Mountain Time, Mountain West Network), the Cowgirls play the winner of No. 6 New Mexico and No. 11 San Jose State, who play at 8 p.m. MT Monday.

“Well, I think that’s the biggest challenge is you don’t know who you’re going to play until 24 hours (before),” head coach Joe Legerski said. “And so there’s not much preparation moving forward. … We know how we like to attack New Mexico. We know how we like to attack San Jose State. We just have to wait and see which one we’re going to play.”

The Cowgirls won by 10 points at home against New Mexico and by one point Feb. 21 at The Pit. Wyoming’s first game against San Jose State was a 12-point win in Laramie, but things got nerve-wracking in the second meeting, as the Cowgirls trailed by 14 points before rallying to win by two.

“The biggest thing we know is three of the four games came down to basically the last possession, and that’s always a challenge,” Legerski said. “And so that’s where it comes down to are we making a shot here or there? ... We can put our players in a position to be able to make plays. Our opponent will do the same. And then all of a sudden some nights, some players are shooting the ball well and others are not. And that’s the biggest question we have going in, as do all teams.”

Wyoming practiced at noon local time Monday, meaning they couldn’t prepare for one specific team. The Cowgirls had a bye in last year’s tournament, too, and lost in their opening game to No. 7 Fresno State.

“Having a first-round bye is super nice, but also you haven’t been able to play on the court yet,” Roberts said. “You haven’t been in the arena to shoot and to have that confidence going in. The one advantage that we will have, though, is that we won’t be as tired.”

Wyoming was without Roberts for that Fresno State game, as she had a torn ACL. The Cowgirls were without Roberts for their loss at Air Force last week, too, because of illness. She still wasn’t quite 100 percent for the Cowgirls’ home loss to Boise State, but she doesn’t expect that to be the case Tuesday.

“I woke up the other day, and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, what is wrong with me? I feel super weird,’” she said. “And I figured it out, that my throat didn’t hurt, and it’s unusual for me to feel 100 percent. And so it’s a good feeling to feel weird for me, because that means that I’m feeling super good. And (Tuesday) I’ll be ready to go as usual.”

Considering how close the Cowgirls have already come to winning one Mountain West title, they’ll be especially motivated to win this one — no matter who they end up playing.

“We talked about how everything we’ve done this season is just kind of fueling the fire,” Roberts said. “Every loss. I know that we still want to get back at Fresno again, because we lost there. Of course we want to get back at Boise State. So we just want to be able to stay and keep staying until we can take on those teams again.

“More than anything, we’re just ready to play.”

UPDATE: New Mexico defeated San Jose State 85-54 late Monday night to advance to a quarterfinal meeting with Wyoming. 

Follow University of Wyoming athletics reporter Brandon Foster on Twitter @BFoster91


College Sports Reporter

Brandon Foster reports on University of Wyoming athletics. He joined the Star-Tribune in 2016 after graduating from the University of Missouri and covering Mizzou athletics for two years. A St. Louis native, he lives in Laramie.

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