ALBUQUERQUE, N.M.– Behind a ten-point fourth quarter effort from junior Marta Gomez, the Wyoming basketball team (19-7 overall, 12-3 MW) pulled out a one-point victory, 63-62, over the New Mexico Lobos (20-8 overall, 8-7 MW) on Wednesday night.
The Cowgirls have now won five in a row against the Lobos.
New Mexico Was 16-1 at Home
“We knew it was going to be difficult coming in,” head coach Joe Legerski said. “New Mexico was 16-1 at home. They are talented, well-coached and then the fans started to get in to it. There were 4,800 fans tonight and New Mexico got off to a great start.
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“We don’t panic and talked about doing what we do, moving in the motion offense and get open looks. Selale (Kepenc) gave us a huge lift with 15 points, played well defensively and gave us what we needed. She played well in here a year ago.
“Marta (Gomez) is just being Marta with ten points in 20 minutes. The big play was the jumper she hit that kept it a two possession game.
“We needed to shoot free throws better but this is a tough environment, learning experience and it seemed like we hit enough to make it a two possession game. Bailee (Cotton) had a tough battle down low in the post and New Mexico did a good job of spreading it out.
“I also thought we handled the full court pressure with only 12 turnovers in being pressed for 40 minutes. We made big shots throughout and everyone contributed.”
Kepenc Recorded 15 Points Off the Bench
Sophomore Selale Kepenc came off the bench and recorded a career-high 15 points while shooting 5-of-8 from the field and 4-of-4 (1.00) from beyond the arc. Senior Natalie Baker recorded 11 points, followed by Gomez with ten.
Junior Sladjana Rakovic and sophomore Taylor Rusk each brought down six boards, while junior Clara Tapia dished out seven assists. Wyoming shot 20-of-53 (.377) from the field and 10-of-20 (.500) from beyond the arc.
The Cowgirls had 28 bench points and out rebounded New Mexico 37-31.
New Mexico’s Leaders
The Lobos were led by junior Jaisa Nunn with a game-high 19 points and nine rebounds. Seniors Cherise Beynon and Tesha Buck recorded 13 and 11 points, respectively. UNM shot 19-of-50 (.380) from the field and 19-of-24 (.792) from the charity stripe.
Lobos Get Early Lead
New Mexico jumped out early to a 7-0 lead as the Cowgirls struggled missing their first five shots to begin the game. A three by Rusk at the 5:19 mark got UW in the scoring column. The Lobos increased the lead out of the media timeout to eight, 13-5.
Back to back field goals by senior Liv Roberts capped off by a Kepenc three evened up the score at 13 with eight minutes to go in the second quarter. After Nunn hit one of two free throws, Wyoming scored the next six points to give them a 19-14 advantage.
Cowgirls Lead by One Point at Half
Buck and freshman Antonia Anderson scored the next seven points for UNM to help them regain a one-point advantage, 21-20. Both teams combined for nine points in the final four minutes of the half with the Cowgirls taking a 25-24 lead headed in to the locker room.
In the first half, Roberts led all scorers with eight points followed by Kepenc with seven and Rusk with six. Rakovic led the Cowgirls in rebounds with five. Wyoming shot 8-of-30 (.267) from the field and 5-of-14 (.357) from beyond the arc.
New Mexico was led by Beynon and Buck with five points and three rebounds. Nunn recorded six rebounds plus five points. The Lobos shot 7-of-24 (.292) from the field and 2-10 (.200) from beyond the arc.
Back and Forth Lead at Start of Third
The lead changed hands three times in the first couple of minutes of the third quarter. With the score 28-27 in favor of the Lobos, Wyoming went on a 9-0 run to put them up by eight, 36-28, which forced a New Mexico timeout.
Bryan hit a shot to end a three-minute scoreless stretch for the Lobos. The Cowgirls answered with two straight baskets to get the lead to nine, 40-31, but the Lobos scored five of the next seven to cut the deficit to six, 42-36.
Kepenc hit a huge three to stop a scoreless stretch and she would score the next eight points to give Wyoming a 50-42 advantage with 7:01 in the fourth.
Lobos Fight Back, but UW Holds On to Secure Win
UNM would battle its way back in to the game. Started by a basket by Buck, they would go on a 7-1 run to make it a two-point contest, 51-49. Free throws followed a by a three from Gomez extended it back to a five-point lead, 56-51.
After a pair of New Mexico free throws, Gomez struck again with a layup to get the score to 58-53 with 1:35 left. With the score 58-55, the Lobos had a chance to even it up but a big steal from Rusk gave the ball back to the Cowgirls.
Wyoming continued to hit free throws to keep it a two possession game, but New Mexico continued to battle and pulled to with two, 61-59 with two seconds remaining. Gomez was fouled and stepped up and drained both to make the score 63-59.
Nunn hit a three at the buzzer which was not enough with the Cowgirls coming away with the 63-62 victory.
Wyoming will return home on Saturday to host the Fresno State Bulldogs. The game is set for 2 pm MT in the Arena-Auditorium. Fans are encouraged to wear pink.
14th Annual Walk for Women
In conjunction with the game, the University of Wyoming Athletics Department will be hosting the 14th Annual Walk for Women. Along with the walk, a silent auction will be held with all proceeds from the event directly benefit the Play 4Kay Foundation.
The walk will be held in the Arena-Auditorium at 11 a.m., with registration set to begin at 10 a.m. The cost is $25 per person or $15 for UW students and youth (12 and under). Fans are encouraged to sign-up early as the cost will be $35 on the day of the walk.
All participants will receive a drawstring bag, water bottle and lunch along with a ticket to the women’s basketball game. Walk for Women t-shirts can also be purchased for an additional $10.
Registration can be completed at gowyo.com/walk or the University of Wyoming Athletics Department. Online registration ends on Thursday, Feb. 22, at 5 p.m.
For further information, please visit GoWyo.com or contact Lonnie Penner at (307) 766-2464 or firstname.lastname@example.org.