Cowgirls Grind Out 53-49 Win Against North Texas

Photo courtesy of the University of Wyoming.

STOCKTON, Calif. (November 23, 2018) – Marta Gomez calmly sank four crunch-time free throws to ice Wyoming’s 53-49 win against North Texas, as the Cowgirls opened the Tiger Turkey Tipoff with a defensive victory. It was a three-point game with 19 seconds left at 49-46 when Gomez made the first of her four game-sealing free throws.


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The Cowgirls held the Mean Green, who normally get out and run in transition, to zero fast break points, but North Texas’ second-chance points kept them in the game. The Cowgirls gave up 13 second-chance points off of 15 North Texas offensive rebounds. To help counter the Mean Green’s effectiveness on the offensive glass, the Cowgirls scored 12 points off of 12 UNT turnovers in what was Wyoming’s best defensive game of the young season.

“It’s interesting, with every game plan, you have to be able to take some things away, and more importantly, remember what you give up,” said head coach Joe Legerski. “We wanted to take away their transition. We were sending four people back on every shot just to make sure we didn’t give up easy baskets. So, what you give up is offensive rebounds. I know we only had six, but sending one player to the offensive glass, that’s a pretty good job. We made enough plays in this ball game.”

Gomez ended the game with 12 points and a season-high six rebounds. Freshman Tereza Vitulova scored 10 points off the bench in just 15 minutes. The Cowgirls got eight points each from Karla Erjavec – including a clutch three with 1:05 left – Taylor Rusk and Bailee Cotton. Cotton added seven rebounds, while Rusk and Erjavec combined for seven assists. Senior Clara Tapia recorded a season-high four points and added three assists – the first of which was the 300th in her career.

“I thought Karla (Erjavec) hit a big shot down the stretch,” Legerski said. “We’re up two, she hits the three, we go up five, they answer and then Marta (Gomez) closes it out with four straight free throws. We needed every one of them because it allowed us to play the way we wanted to play up two possessions.”

“I thought Tereza (Vitulova) gave us a lift we needed off the bench,” Legerski said. “It was a great scoring night from her. And then, we needed Bailee (Cotton) right through the end of it. She played, I believe, about seven minutes with four fouls, and she was just doing everything defensively that we wanted to do, and that was the matchup.”

The game started off as a defensive battle, as the teams missed the first seven combined shots before Cotton scored on a layup assisted by Erjavec. In fact, North Texas missed its first 10 shots before taking a 3-2 lead with 5:38 left. Anisha George made a layup for North Texas and finished the and-one opportunity. Then, Rusk converted an old-fashioned three-point play of her own to spark an 8-0 run that featured a Rachelle Tucker and-one and a pair of Cotton free throw makes.

Vitulova checked in and scored four quick points for the Cowgirls, who took a 14-6 lead into the second quarter. It was the sixth time this season the Cowgirls held an opponent to single-digit points in a quarter.

The teams traded layups and then free throws to open the second frame. Then the Mean Green used a 6-0 run to get back within four, 20-16, as the Cowgirls went over three minutes without a made field goal. Erjavec collected a steal and scored a fast break layup to end the Cowgirl drought. But a North Texas three-pointer cut the Cowgirl lead to one point, 22-21 with 3:15 left in the half. A Rusk trey snapped a 2:59 scoring drought, and Tapia earned the 300th assist of her career on the bucket.

The Cowgirls took a 25-23 lead into halftime, as Wyoming was outscored 17-11 in the second quarter, including a 13-5 run for North Texas to end the frame. The 11 points were a new quarter low for the season, and the 25 points were a low for any half this season.


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The Mean Green scored on their first two possessions of the half, but Gomez hit a trey to keep the Cowgirls in front early. Then, Tapia connected with Gomez for another three, before Erjavec hit a triple of her own to put the Cowgirls up 34-27 into a timeout with 5:44 left. After going 1-for-7 from three in the first half, Wyoming made three of its first four attempts in less than five minutes into the third quarter.


But, out of the timeout, the Mean Green scored four straight to make it a single-possession game. Then, Cotton scored four consecutive points, and on the next possession, she grabbed an offensive rebound that resulted in a Tapia layup. The Cowgirls clamped down defensively, and the Mean Green went the final 2:05 of the quarter without points, as Wyoming took a 40-33 lead into the final frame.


The teams each scored on their first two possessions of the fourth quarter, including a Vitulova basket with the shot clock winding down. But then, the Mean Green collected three offensive rebounds, and Wyoming went 3:16 without a basket before Rusk scored a driving layup to give the Cowgirls a 46-39 lead. But the Mean Green wouldn’t go away, as they scored four points and didn’t allow the Cowgirls to score for 4:28 before Erjavec hit an important three pointer with 1:05 left.


The Mean Green answered immediately with a three of their own, and North Texas took a timeout with Wyoming leading 49-46 with 51 seconds to play. After Tapia committed an offensive foul, North Texas took another timeout to advance the ball. But the Mean Green failed to execute out of the timeout, and the Cowgirls forced a turnover with 24.2 seconds left.


North Texas fouled Gomez, and she made both of her free throws to put Wyoming up 51-46. While attempting to get a steal, Rusk fouled Trena Mims, who went one-of-two from the line. The Cowgirls committed a turnover of their own, and George scored a layup to bring North Texas back within two. But North Texas fouled Gomez again, and she made her two free throws to give Wyoming the 53-49 win.


Wyoming shot 37.5 percent (18-of-48) from the field, 38.5 percent (5-of-13) from three and 85.7 percent (12-of-14 from the free throw line. The Cowgirls had 13 assists and 10 turnovers. North Texas was held to 35.1 percent (20-of-57) from the field, 14.3 percent (2-of-14) from three and 77.8 percent (7-of-9) from the charity stripe while collecting 9 assists and committing 12 turnovers.


The Cowgirls are back in action tomorrow, Saturday Nov. 24., when they face Pacific at 4 p.m. (MT) to close out the Tiger Turkey Tipoff.