by staff–20 Dec ’20
The Wyoming Cowgirls were able to survive an overtime thriller Sunday at Northern Colorado as Wyoming was able to escape Bank of Colorado Arena with a 53-50 overtime victory to improve to 3-2 overall on the season to close out the year 2020.
Jaye Johnson’s 3-pointer with 2:18 left to play in the extra frame, pushed the Cowgirls out in front for good at 50-48 and was followed up a minute later with a Grace Ellis free throw to put UW up by three, 51-48. After a bucket by UNC (1-6) cut the lead to 51-50, Quinn Weidemann stepped up to the line and hit a pair of big free throws with 25 seconds remaining to push the lead back up to 53-50 and the Cowgirls were able to get the defensive stop on the other end to secure the road win.
Wyoming was in control for much of Sunday’s contest, leading by as many as 12 points, 44-31 with 4:45 left to play in the game. However, the Bears were able to go on a big run down the stretch from that point forward, outscoring UW 13-0 in the final four plus minutes and tying the game up at 44-44 and sending it into overtime. UNC outscored the Cowgirls 14-3 in the fourth quarter.
“We missed Tommi (Olson) out there when she got into foul trouble, but I’m really proud of the way we played though without her down the stretch in overtime and our team stepped up,” said Head Coach Gerald Mattinson.
“I’m so happy for our kids. This has been a long stretch of time with just five games being played and with the last three on the road. I thought we battled, fought and I thought we grew today. Grace Ellis took another step, Ola (Ustowska) stepped up, Jaye played great had the confidence to nail that shot late when it was needed. Great win and great effort from our team.”
The Cowgirls defense was stifling for most of the day, holding the Bears to just 35.7 percent shooting for the game and 3-of-11 from 3-point range. After leading 17-14 after one, the Cowgirls outscored UNC 11-5 in the second and took a 28-19 lead into halftime after holding the Bears to just 2-of-11 shooting in the second quarter.
“Like I told the kids last night, if you can learn to defend, you can give yourself a lot of opportunities and keep you in games and we did that today,” continued Mattinson.
In the second half, Wyoming appeared to be well within control, ending the third with a 5-0 lead and taking up to that point, its biggest lead of the game into the fourth, 41-30. Wyoming’s only scoring in the fourth came at the free-throw line as Johnson hit a pair of free throws and Ustowska made the other to put UW up 44-31.
In OT, UNC took the lead first after a pair of free throws from Alisha Davis. When an Ustowska layup tied things up at 46-46 with 4:13 to play, Davis again responded for the Bears with a layup of her own to put UNC back up before Johnson’s big shot less than two minutes later. Davis had 12 points and 12 rebounds for the Bears while Micayla Isenbart scored a game-high 17.
The Cowgirls, who were without leading scorer McKinley Bradshaw, were led by Weidemann’s 13 points. Weidemann also made a trio of 3-pointers in the win while Johnson, Olson and Ustowska all either set new career-highs or tied them in scoring on the day.
Ustowska set a new career-mark with 11 points while shooting 4-of-6 from the field. Olson, who fouled out and didn’t play in OT, tied a career-best with 10 points hit a pair of shots from beyond-the-arc while also adding six assists, four rebounds and four steals in the game. Johnson’s nine points are a new career-high for her as she added three boards in the victory. Grace Ellis chipped in with six points and had three rebounds.
Wyoming shot 18-for-47 from the floor (38.7 percent) in the win while going 8-for-22 from 3-point range and 9-of-12 at the free-throw line. UNC outscored the Cowgirls in points in the paint (22-14) and second-chance points (11-7) but the Cowgirls had a 6-1 edge in fast break scoring and committed one fewer turnover in the win.
Up next for the Cowgirls is a return to conference play for the remaining 18 games of the season. UW will begin the New Year hosting defending conference champion Fresno State January 2 and 4 at the Arena-Auditorium.