CHEYENNE – As successful as the University of Wyoming women’s basketball team has proven to be when playing at home through the years, it struggled on the road last season.

The Cowgirls finished the year 2-7 on the road in a season that included more hurdles and difficulties because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Today, UW will play its first road game of the season against the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where it’ll look to find early road success that it can build on. The teams tip off at 5 p.m.

Even though there are three freshmen, it’ll also be a new traveling experience for the sophomores.

“We didn’t handle the road well last year. For some of our kids – because of the way COVID went and the way our schedule went – for not only our three freshmen, but for our sophomores coming back, this is the first time they’ll have really gone through (the whole traveling process),” third-year Cowgirls coach Gerald Mattinson said. “That, in itself, is going to be a new experience for a lot of our kids, and when you don’t do that for a year, you forget what it’s like.”

Wyoming (1-1) is coming off a 57-48 loss to Wichita State, where it struggled to find any offensive rhythm. It wasn’t from a lack of effort, though, as the Cowgirls were more aggressive than usual in an attempt to get some shots to fall. It was one of the positives from that loss, Mattinson said.

“I thought we were aggressive. It wasn’t necessarily ‘Hey, let’s run motion and be aggressive,’” the coach said. “It was that we put the ball on the floor a little more than we have. It was that we attacked their physicality, and a lot of times it still ends up the same look … we still had draw and kick opportunities, it just came from a difference place.”

The aggression also helped the Cowgirls get to the free-throw line and convert those chances, something they failed to do in their two exhibition games. After averaging 61.4% from the free-throw line in those contests, UW is shooting 77% from the free-throw line in the first two regular-season games after hitting at a 82% clip against Wichita State.

With the offensive struggles that the Cowgirls experienced at times last year and have already this season, those free-throw attempts can be critical.

“We have to be able to not only get to the free-throw line, but we have to be able to make them,” Mattinson said. “Getting there is one thing, making them is another thing. … We would like to make as many free throws as the other team attempts, if we could, throughout the year. But once again, that means you have to be physical, you have to get there, and you have to be able to make them.”

Kansas City sits at 1-1 following a 67-46 win over Southern Illinois on Sunday. Although early in the season, senior Naomie Alnatas is sixth in the Summit League with 15.5 points per game and tied in assists average with six.

With the quick turnaround, the Cowgirls didn’t have much time to prepare for a Kansas City offense that’s shooting 46% from the field. It’ll be another challenge during their first game outside of Laramie.

“Going on the road poses its own set of issues,” Mattinson said. “But you just gotta go prep and play.”

Robert Munoz is a writer for WyoSports. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @rmunoz307.

Robert Munoz is a writer for WyoSports. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @rmunoz307.

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