Cowgirls Lasso Falcons, Look Toward Fresno State Next
By W.G. Ramirez
Special to TheMW.com
LAS VEGAS - Wyoming senior Kayla Woodward and junior Marquelle Dent helped the sixth-seeded Cowgirls corral an opening round win in the 2015 Mountain West Women's Basketball Championship, a dominating 70-48 win over No. 11 Air Force. The Cowgirls' dynamic duo, who were named to the All-Mountain West team on Monday, combined to score 37 points and grab 13 rebounds.
Wyoming (15-13) will play No. 3 Fresno State (21-8) in Tuesday's quarterfinals, at 8:30 p.m., in the Thomas and Mack Center.
The Cowgirls - who are 45-2 all-time against Air Force, including 21 straight wins - wasted no time in establishing their presence, as they used a 13-2 run in the first half to open up a 23-9 lead over the Falcons (2-27).
That always helps to get the lead right away, it gets all the nerves out," said Woodward, who was named the preseason Mountain West Player of the Year the past two seasons and is just the 11th player to receive All-MW honors in each of her four seasons. "Obviously it showed, we were a little nervous at the beginning. But we got it together in the second half, handled their run in the second half, too."
Trailing 35-18 at the break, the Falcons opened the second half on a 9-4 run to cut the lead to 12, but Wyoming turned things around quickly, using a 19-12 spurt over a seven-minute span, highlighted by Dent's four-point play with nine minutes left to play.
"She came out in the second half and stepped up like the all-conference player she is, (she) made great decisions, was able to make big shots," Wyoming coach Joe Legerski said. "I thought Marquelle's four-point play was as big a play as there was out there. She ended up getting that lead back up to 14 points, gave us a little more breathing room."
Actually, Dent's free throw after a long 3-pointer put the Cowgirls up by 17, at 56-39, and essentially delivered the knockout punch in the game.
"We definitely had a little bit of nerves," said Dent, who was also named to the MW's All-Defensive Team after averaging 2.2 steals per game. "That's going to be good for us going into the next game, knowing we can shoot here and all that kind of stuff."
Coming into the MW Tournament, Dent was averaging a team-high 17.3 points and a league-best 6.2 assists per game. The crafty 5-foot-7 point guard scored 20 points, had five rebounds and delivered three assists.
Woodward, who was second on the team with 15.2 points per game this past season, while also snagging a team-leading 7.6 rebounds per contest, finished with 17 points and eight rebounds.
Also stepping up for the Cowgirls was sophomore Kaylie Rader, who scored 13 points and grabbed seven rebounds, and senior Kaitlyn Mileto, who added 11 points and four rebounds.
"You take a look at the stat sheet, I thought Kaitlyn got us off to a great start shooting threes, Kayla was solid throughout the whole evening, and then I thought Marquelle's second half was tremendous," Legerski said. "Kaylie gave us a great lift off the bench. Throughout the whole game to have four players in double figures, we needed each and every point."
Willie Ramirez is a Las Vegas-based freelance reporter and Southern Nevada correspondent for The Associated Press. Follow him on Twitter: @AP_WG