CHEYENNE – The University of Wyoming women’s basketball team’s magical postseason run has come to an end.
In the first round of the NCAA Tournament, the No. 14-seeded Cowgirls fell to third-seeded UCLA 69-48 Monday night in Austin, Texas.
“It wasn’t like we went out and played bad, the No. 9(-ranked) team in the country had a lot to do with it,” second-year coach Gerald Mattinson said. “I’m proud of what these guys did ... When we were done, we were going to walk out of here with our heads held high because we gave everything we had and that’s what we’re going to do, because that’s what we did.”
While UW tends to be the more physical team on the court, UCLA’s physicality was hard to match from the opening tip and the Bruins were dominant inside, scoring 14 of their 23 first quarter points in the paint.
“(Their physicality) just pushed us out of everything we wanted to do,” Mattinson said. “We tried to match their physicality (and we) tried to battle and compete and tried to keep our ground, particularly on the boards, and you just can’t make up for their length and their ability to get out and pressure like they did.”
UCLA redshirt senior Natalie Chou and Cowgirls junior Alba Sanchez Ramos traded 3-pointers on the first two possessions of the game.
Following that exchange, the Cowgirls went 4 minutes, 38 seconds without scoring before sophomore McKinley Bradshaw found the bottom of the net with a triple and went 1 for 2 from the free-throw line to put the Cowgirls behind 13-7 and stop a 10-0 run from the Bruins.
Quinn Weidemann managed to get a step-through layup to fall at the buzzer and UW went into the second frame trailing 23-11.
The Bruins did their best to disrupt the Cowgirls’ motion offense, taking away passing lanes, stepping in front of cutters and not giving up any easy baskets. UW only shot at a 33% mark for the game.
“It was honestly pretty hard (to get our offense going),” Sanchez Ramos said. “We needed a better pace and we couldn’t get it, we needed to catch closer to the rim and we couldn’t do that. They threw us off our motion and we couldn’t play our offense at all.”
With 6:31 in second quarter, Weidemann hit a much-needed shot from deep and the Cowgirls trailed 28-16. Wyoming went on a 7-2 run to close out the first half, but still trailed 40-26.
Sanchez Ramos got a bucket to fall to start second half and even though it may not have felt like it, the Cowgirls only trailed by 12 at that point. UCLA responded with a six-point run and maintained its lead for the rest of the contest. Sanchez Ramos and sophomore McKinley Bradshaw each scored seven points in the third period.
Mattinson always credits his team for playing through until the end, it’s as much as the brand of Cowgirls basketball as their defense is. And UW gave it its all until the end of its final game of the season, only allowing eight fourth-quarter points and still holding UCLA below its scoring average (72 points per game).
“We played hard all the way through the end. We didn’t give in, we didn’t give up we kept battling right to the end,” Mattinson said. “I think that’s what you want from a team.”
UCLA (18-5) was led by third team All-American selection Michaela Onyenwere with 25 points. Sophomore Charisma Osborne added 15 points and 10 rebounds. Sanchez Ramos paced the Cowgirls (14-10) with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Bradshaw netted 13 and Weidemann added 11.
The Bruins were dominant on the board the entire game, using their size and athleticism to grab loose balls. They outrebounded the Cowgirls 43-27.
With the trio of juniors in Sanchez Ramos, Weidemann and Tommi Olson returning, it’s no secret the Cowgirls will be out to prove this postseason run was no fluke. Bradshaw has proven time and again she can compete with anyone on the court, and the Cowgirls’ freshman have shown a ton of promise this season. Not to mention the coach who led the team to the NCAA tournament in only his second season at the helm.
“We’ve got a really talented young group that’s going to get better with time,” Mattinson said. “Some of the kids that don’t get a lot of minutes have really progressed through the year in practice, I’m excited for them … Going forward with this group, as we like to say over here, the ball is in their court.
“It’s what they want to do as individuals and then as they come together as a team early next year it’s where they want to be and what they want to do.”
The lowest seed to ever win the MW tournament and winning four games in four days en route to the first conference tournament title in program history, it’s easy to say that the Cowgirls weren’t supposed to be playing on college basketball’s biggest stage Monday night against the ninth-ranked team in the country. How they got there and the growth the team saw over the course of the season is only a glimpse of what the future holds for the program.
“If we can do this right now, with this young team, let’s see what’s there for us in the future,” Sanchez Ramos said. “I think it can be very bright.”
UCLA 69, WYOMING 48
Wyoming.…… 11 15 15 7
UCLA …………. 23 17 21 8
Wyoming: Davidsdottir 2-4 1-2 5, Johnson 1-2 0-1 2, Olson 1-4 0-0 2, Sanchez Ramos 4-11 5-8 15, Weidemann 4-16 2-2 11, Bradshaw 4-8 3-4 13, Bull 0-1 0-0 0, Ellis 0-1 0-0 0, Hudson 0-0 0-0 0, Salazar 0-0 0-0 0, Savic 0-0 0-0 0, Ustowska 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 16-48 11-17 48.
UCLA: Chou 6-13 0-0 15, Corsaro 1-5 2-2 4, Miller 3-9 0-0 6, Onyenwere 9-17 6-6 25, Osborne 6-10 3-3 15, Bessoir 1-4 2-4 4, Darius 0-3 0-2 0, Sigal 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 26-61 13-17 69.
3-pointers: UW 5-18 (Bradshaw 2-3, Sanchez Ramos 2-5, Weidemann 1-6, Johnson 0-1, Olson 0-1, Bull 0-1, Ustowska 0-1); UCLA 4-17 (Chou 3-5, Onyenwere 1-4, Corsaro 0-1, Darius 0-2, Osborne 0-2, Bessoir 0-3). Rebounds: UW 27 (Sanchez Ramos 10); UCLA 43 (Osborne 10). Assists: UW 5 (Weidemann 2); UCLA 11 (Osborne 4). Turnovers: UW 12 (Olson 2, Bradshaw 2); UCLA 8 (Onyenwere 3). Blocks: UW 1 (Davidsdottir); UCLA 3 (Three with 1). Steals: UW 1 (Davidsdottir); UCLA 5 (Onyenwere 2). Total fouls: UW 13; UCLA 18.
This story first appeared on WyoSports.net at 12 a.m. Tuesday.