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UW WOMEN’S BASKETBALL

Wyoming women's basketball takes on CSU Pueblo to open 2021-22 season

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UW-Fresno St. women's hoops

Wyoming's McKinley Bradshaw celebrates after the Cowgirls defeated Fresno State in the Mountain West Tournament championship game on March 10 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas.

LARAMIE – The Cowgirls were leading by over 20 points and had emptied their bench during the final exhibition game.

But the crowd of 2,477 wasn’t treating the situation as garbage time.

Wyoming’s passionate women’s basketball fan base was still fully engaged and letting the officials have it after some questionable foul calls in the second half as the home team drubbed Colorado-Colorado Springs 66-39 on Friday night.

The reigning Mountain West Conference tournament champions are officially back – UW opens the 2021-22 regular season at home against CSU Pueblo at 11 a.m. Tuesday.

And so is the home-court advantage at the Arena-Auditorium after crowds were limited last season due to the pandemic.

“They’re back and they were into it. We’ve got a smart crowd,” UW head coach Gerald Mattinson said. “I think New Mexico, for example, they get numbers and they’ve got smart basketball people. They know when to boo, they know when to cheer, they know when their team needs a lift, they know when to get loud. I think our crowd is like that, too.

“I was glad to see our crowd was in it and I was glad to see our crowd stayed in it all the way to the end. It’s good to have them back, definitely.”

There could be a lot to cheer about this season.

The Cowgirls return senior stars Tommi Olson (4.2 assists and 2.3 steals per game), Alba Sanchez Ramos (10.3 points, 6.3 rebounds per game) and Quinn Weidemann (11.0 ppg, 2.9 apg).

McKinley Bradshaw (11.7 ppg), last season’s leading scorer off the bench, has joined the starting lineup.

“I think it’s going to add another that level that was missing last year,” Bradshaw said of fans being allowed back at full capacity this season. “It just adds to the level of intensity in the gym and wanting to perform to the best of your abilities.”

During the final tune-up Friday, true freshman Allyson Fertig led the way offensively with 17 points on 7-for-13 shooting.

Mattinson is already holding the 6-foot-4 center from Douglas to a high standard as he looks to replace graduated post Dagny Davidsdottir, who averaged 9.0 points and 5.4 rebounds as a senior.

“If she could do anything better, I need her to be more aggressive rebounding,” Mattinson said of Fertig, who had six rebounds in 14 minutes against UCCS after finishing with 12 points and seven rebounds in the first exhibition game against Colorado Christian. “I really thought in a game like (Friday) she should have a double-double. I really thought even the other game she should have a double-double. But she’s doing a good job for us. She should continue to grow.”

CSU Pueblo will test Fertig and UW’s other post players with the addition of Northern Colorado graduate Alisha Davis to the roster. The 6-1 junior forward was the Big Sky player of the year last season after averaging 17.1 points and 10.1 rebounds for the Bears.

The ThunderWolves also return their top six leading scorers from last season, including Sydni Williams (12.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg) and JaNaiya Davis (11.3 ppg).

“They’re a D-II team that’s a D-I team,” Mattinson said of CSU Pueblo’s talent level. “It’s going to be a challenge. Our veteran kids will play hard, but we have to clean some stuff up offensively before Tuesday comes around.”

The early tip time is for the “Education Day” game, which means local schools will be in attendance in addition to UW’s hardcore fans.

Follow UW beat writer Ryan Thorburn on Twitter @By_RyanThorburn

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