LARAMIE– The standings might show a Utah State team that has lost seven consecutive games and is sitting dead last in the Mountain West standings. But for University of Wyoming coach Gerald Mattinson, it’s no time to take a breather.
If anything, it’s time to push even harder, especially since the end of the Cowgirls’ regular season schedule remains a mystery.
Fresh off a two-game sweep at the hands of first-place Colorado State by a total of 11 points, UW (8-9 overall, 6-8 MW) hosts an Aggies (4-11, 2-8) team that hasn’t won a game since early January. But the Cowgirls are finally starting to figure themselves out, Mattinson said, and they need all the momentum they can get heading into the MW Tournament, which starts March 7 in Las Vegas.
Because San Jose State, who was scheduled to be UW’s final regular-season opponent, has opted out of the remainder of its season, it’s possible the Cowgirls go more than two weeks without playing a game after their Feb. 19 home matchup against New Mexico.
Mattinson said he isn’t sure if any games will be scheduled during that two-week span. What he is sure of, however, is that a layoff isn’t going to help his team in the slightest.
“We don’t know what we’re doing, to be honest with you. We’re talking about a lot of things. Do we need two weeks off? No, we don’t need two weeks off,” Mattinson said. “That would definitely, I think, set us back some. … I think every game’s important. We’re out here playing, we’re out here to win. I think it’s important for us to finish strong. We need to finish strong.
“These last four games, obviously you want to win. But you definitely want to keep going into the positive.”
Utah State is led by forward Jessica Chapman, who averages 11.3 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. The Aggies feature the league’s worst scoring defense, surrendering 78.4 points per contest. The Cowgirls, meanwhile, are at the top of the list in that department (60.6 points per game allowed).
While they lost both games at archrival Colorado State, the Cowgirls were in position to win each, particularly the last one, a gut-wrenching 68-65 defeat. UW held a four-point lead with less than 3 minutes to play last Saturday but was outscored 8-1 the remainder of the game.
Was it a disappointing outcome? Of course. Mattinson would be thrilled if his team was better able to finish off games, which has been a theme on a few occasions this season. All he can do is continue to preach in practice and know that, at some point, it will carry over into a game.
What better time to start than now?
“We just have to keep working on it and practice and try to put them into some pressure situations, and try to get them to perform,” Mattinson said. “You have to understand as a player what the situation is, how hard you have to play down the end and who has to make the plays and how you have to make the plays.”