LARAMIE — The University of Wyoming women’s basketball team had its five-game winning streak snapped with a 71-57 loss to UNLV on Thursday in the Arena-Auditorium.
The Cowgirls had a strong opening quarter and trailed by just two points, but poor shooting dug a hole they weren’t able to overcome in the second half. The loss dropped UW to 12-6 overall and 5-2 in conference play while the Rebels improved to 18-2 and 8-0.
The Cowgirls started the game 6-of-7 from the field with all 12 points coming in the paint, including five consecutive layups. The hot shooting dragged in the second quarter, with UW ending the first half missing 13 of its last 18 shots, including a 2-of-12 clip from 3-point range.
UNLV didn’t fare much better in the shooting department, ending the first half 12-of-28 from the field and 2-of-9 from three. The Rebels shot just 31% from the field in the second quarter and missed all five of their 3-point attempts.
The teams combined for 38 points in the first 10 minutes, but scored just 18 total points in the second quarter. The Rebels held a slim 30-26 lead going into the halftime break, despite their leading scorer, Desi-Rae Young, playing just seven minutes after picking up two early fouls.
UNLV came out of the locker room in the second half with a 12-0 run to take a double-digit lead. UW’s shooting woes continued in the third quarter, with the Rebels outscoring the Cowgirls 18-9 to take a 48-35 lead going into the final 10 minutes.
The Cowgirls bounced back offensively in the fourth, shooting 7-of-14 from the field including five 3-pointers, but the defense couldn’t hold off the Rebels’ offensive attack to end the game with a 14-point loss.
“We were two possessions away and that 12-0 run was really hard to come back from, especially with a quick third quarter that went by so fast,” Cowgirls’ super-senior guard Tommi Olson said. “We were trying everything in the fourth quarter, but there just wasn’t enough time and not enough made shots.”
Olson led the Cowgirls with 16 points, followed by Grace Ellis with 15 and Quinn Weidemann with 12. Essence Booker paced the Rebels with 20 points and Alyssa Brown added 16.
“It was definitely a gut-check game for us,” Olson said. “If we talk about it and learn from it and then have a positive attitude moving forward, we can still carry on that run that we went on.”
One of the Cowgirls’ biggest problems all night was facing a full-court press from the first possession of the game to the last. To go along with the press, the Rebels played a two-three zone in the half court to get UW out of rhythm offensively.
“They slowed us down with their press, which was, I think, their goal,” Olson said. “It took us a little bit to kind of settle into that and figure out what we were going to do once we break it. That kind of flustered our team a little bit and we didn’t really handle it that well, and that was kind of our downfall.”
Against the zone, the Cowgirls relied heavily on the 3-point shot, but finished just 8-of-27 from beyond the arc as a team. UW started the game with its first 12 points coming in the paint but finished with just 24 total for the entire game.
“We were definitely relying on the 3,” Olson said. “Live by the 3 and die by the 3. We need to get it inside and attack the zone and that was kind of an emphasis at halftime. We kind of did that and kind of didn’t, but that’s just how it is.”
The biggest takeaway for interim coach Ryan Larsen is that the Cowgirls still have plenty of work to do in terms of attacking the full-court press.
“The press bothered us,” Larsen said. “That was coming. Even before we went on the road trip, I told the women that everybody watches film and everybody is going to find your weaknesses. You’re going to continue to see this.”
UW finished the game just 20-of-52 from the field, which included a stretch of 5-of-25 between the second and third quarters.
“When you’re behind, it’s really hard,” Larsen said. “We didn’t shoot it well. We’re a better shooting team than that. ... In the first quarter I was pretty pleased with all the shots we got. In the third quarter, the more shots we missed, I wasn’t a real fan of our body language. I love this team, but we’re going to talk about that. We’ll get that figured out.”
The Cowgirls will have just one day to prepare for their next conference game this weekend. UW hosts San Diego State (15-5, 5-2) at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Arena-Auditorium.
“I think we kind of have to, tomorrow, look at it and see what we did wrong and move on,” Olson said. “It is a quick turnaround with only a day to prepare for a very good San Diego State team. So we need to kind of learn from it and move on.”
UNLV 71, WYOMING 57
UNLV: Young 5-10 5-6 15, Brown 6-8 1-2 16, Durazo-Frescas 3-8 0-0 8, Booker 8-15 4-4 20, Winfrey 0-3 0-0 0, Jackson 3-6 0-0 6, Lott 2-3 0-0 4, Wilfred 0-1 2-2 2. Totals: 27-54 12-14.
Wyoming: Ellis 6-10 3-4 15, Fertig 2-4 0-0 4, Pedersen 2-6 0-0 4, Weidemann 3-9 3-4 12, Olson 5-11 2-2 16, Mellema 0-4 1-2 1, Barnes 1-5 0-0 3, Savic 1-1 0-0 2, Ustowska 0-2 0-0 0. Totals: 20-52 9-12.
Halftime: UNLV 30-26. 3-pointers: UNLV 5-14 (Brown 3-5, Durazo-Frescas 2-6, Booker 0-2, Winfrey 0-1; UW 8-27 (Ellis 0-1, Pedersen 0-2, Weidemann 3-8, Olson 4-9, Mellema 0-1, Barnes 1-4, Ustowska 0-2). Rebounds: UNLV 31 (Brown 9), UW 29 (Ellis 9); Assists: UW 12 (Barnes 4), UNLV 8 (Ethridge 3); Turnovers: UW 11 (Barnes 5), UNLV 6 (Young 2, Booker 2); Blocks: UW 5 (Fertig 2, Mellema 2), UNLV 0; Steals: UNLV 7 (Booker 4), UW 0. Team fouls: UW 14, UNLV 14. Fouled out: None.