The Wyoming Cowgirls put together a dominant performance in the First Round of the Women’s NIT Friday night in the Arena-Auditorium, defeating Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, 75-41. The Cowgirls led by as many as 37 points in the game and held Corpus Christi to just 27.6-percent shooting from the floor.
The 34-point margin of victory by the Cowgirls is the second-highest in a WNIT game in program history. UW (23-10) defeated Portland State, 79-44 back in 2011. The Cowgirls’ 35 bench points Friday was also the second-highest output by Cowgirl reserves this season.
“I was most happy with our play on the defensive end tonight,” said Head Coach Heather Ezell postgame.
“The way that we played on that end from the start. I knew it would take us a bit to get going, since we hadn’t played in over a week. But I thought our defense is what carried us at the beginning and then things started to roll. I was happy with the way we played offensively as well, sharing the ball.”
Things were fast-paced to open the game from both teams as the Cowgirls took an 11-7 lead into the first quarter media timeout. Following the timeout, the two teams exchanged a couple of hoops before a Malene Pedersen corner 3-pointer pushed the UW advantage up to 18-11. The Cowgirls carried that same advantage into the second quarter.
The second quarter began with a pair of Marta Savic layups and forced an Islander timeout with 7:57 left in the half and Wyoming up 22-11. Out of the timeout, Corpus Christi got a layup, which was quickly followed by five consecutive Cowgirl points. From there, the Wyoming onslaught continued as the lead was pushed up to 31-15 with a little over five minutes to play in the half. From there, the Cowgirls lengthen the lead even higher, grabbing a 39-18 lead with just over a minute to play in the frame. UW took a 42-18 lead into the break, as a Grace Ellis corner 3-pointer punctuated a great opening half for the Cowgirls.
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi scored the first two buckets of the second half before Wyoming responded with the next six points to push the lead back up to 48-22. The Cowgirls led 51-25 at the media timeout. The rest of the third saw Wyoming extend its lead up to 61-28 going into the fourth thanks to a few trips to the free-throw line and a pair of Tess Barnes 3-pointers.
In the fourth, the Cowgirls led 65-31 with 7:43 remaining as Wyoming brought in most of its reserves for the rest of the game. The lead was 68-31 at the media timeout before the Cowgirls ran out the clock from there, cruising to the opening round victory.
Fertig was just a rebound shy of her 10th double-double this season as she scored a game-high 17 points while pulling down nine rebounds. Defensively, Fertig led the Cowgirls with four blocks. Barnes and Pedersen each had 11 points in the win as Barnes scored 10-plus in her second consecutive game while also tied a career-high with three made triples.
Emily Mellema and Marta Savic added eight and six points, respectively off the bench while Quinn Weidemann also added eight. Tommi Olson led the way with five assists, her seventh game this season with 5-or-more dimes. Ola Ustowska had a solid all-around game for Wyoming, adding five points, a career-high six rebounds and dished out four assists while tallying a steal.
UW shot 42.6-percent from the field and went 10-of-25 (40-percent) from beyond-the-arc in the contest. The Cowgirls also made 19-of-25 at the free-throw line. The Islanders, meanwhile, were held to that 27.6-percent shooting and went just 3-of-16 (18.8-percent) from 3-point land and made just 6-of-14 at the line. The Cowgirls also forced 15 turnovers on the night, scoring 11 points off Islander miscues.
Next up, Wyoming will hit the road for the second round, playing in just its third WNIT game away from Laramie. The Cowgirls will face Kansas State at 5 p.m., Mountain Time Tuesday, March 21 in Manhattan.