LARAMIE, Wyo. – The Wyoming Cowgirls battled back from an eight-point deficit to take a fourth-quarter lead, but they were pushed to overtime by the New Mexico Lobos (13-12, 4-8 MW), where UNM took a 74-71 win over Wyoming (11-11, 7-6 MW). After winning three-straight, the Cowgirls have now lost two in a row.
“We played hard,” said head coach Gerald Mattinson. “What’s happening now is, or what happened in this game and maybe the last game at Boise, for whatever reason, what we’ve been doing well all year, which is executing the defensive scout, for the last two games, we have missed that. We scored enough points tonight. We scored in bunches, they scored in bunches, but we didn’t execute what we needed to defensively. Maybe by the time the tournament rolls around, we’ll get both of them together.”
Wyoming was led by sophomore Tereza Vitulova, who scored 20 points on 9-of-10 shooting. She also had five rebounds, a career-high-tying two blocks and a steal. It is the sixth time this season Vitulova has scored at least 20 points, and the 17th time she has reached double-figure scoring.
Senior Taylor Rusk scored 15 points for UW while pulling down six rebounds. She was just one point off her season high of 16 that was set against San Diego State on Jan. 22. Rusk added an assist in 38 minutes of action.
Freshman Jaeden Vaifanua scored 11 points and pulled down four rebounds for Wyoming off the bench. She collected a career-high four steals, recording multiple steals for the first time in her young career. Vaifanua has now reached double-figure scoring in seven games this season, including the last three in a row.
Sophomore Alba Sanchez Ramos scored 10 points with five rebounds, two assists and a steal for the Cowgirls. The Madrid, Spain, native has now reached at least 10 points seven times this season. Freshman McKinley Bradshaw scored five points and had a career-high six assist to go along with four rebounds and a block. Sophomore Quinn Weidemann added five points, two assists and three steals.
The Cowgirls shot 43.1 percent (28-65) from the field, 27.3 percent (6-22) from three and 69.2 percent (9-13) from the free throw line. Wyoming had 16 assists and 16 turnovers during the game.
Sanchez Ramos started the game immediately with a corner three before a Vitulova layup made it 5-0 early. The Lobos tied it up with five straight points. Vitulova ended a 6-0 Lobo run with a three, but UNM responded with a three of their own to make it 14-10 for the visitors with 4:40 to play in the opening quarter. Vaifanua ended a three-minute Cowgirl scoring draught with a jumper and a layup to tie it at 14 and force a Lobo timeout. Vaifanua scored three after a Lobo layup, and the Cowgirls took a 17-16 lead after one period.
Bradshaw drove for a layup to start the second quarter, but the Lobos scored five straight to go up by two. The teams battled to a 25-25 tie with 6:03 to go in the first half before a Rusk corner three forced a Lobo timeout. After the stoppage, the Lobos scored six of the next eight points and went up by one point, 31-30. Rusk scored a pull-up jumper at the buzzer to give UW a 32-31 halftime lead.
Vitulova scored a long jumper to start the second half, but the Lobos answered with four straight to regain the lead, 35-34. After trading baskets, the Lobos scored six straight to force a Cowgirl timeout with UW trailing 43-38. Out of the break, Weidemann scored a three, but the Lobos scored a layup to answer. Vaifanua ended a 6-0 lobo run with a layup, but UNM held a 49-43 lead. The Cowgirls used an 8-0 run, capped by a pair of Rusk free throws, to take a lead, 53-51 after three quarters.
The Cowgirls scored first on a Bradshaw layup to start the fourth, but the Lobos scored an old-fashioned three-point play to make it 55-54 for the Cowgirls. Vitulova scored a layup, but the Lobos scored a three to tie it at 57. The Cowgirls scored four straight, forcing a Lobo timeout with UW up 61-57 at the 5:27 mark. After a Vitulova layup, the Lobos scored a three to make it 63-60 with just four minutes to play.
The teams traded layups, and with the Cowgirls up 65-62, the Lobos scored a three with 46.2 seconds to play. Tereza Vitulova backed down the Lobo guarding her and scored a layup to put Wyoming up with 26.9 seconds to play. The Cowgirls defended the initial Lobo play but kept the ball, and with 10.0 seconds left, UNM called timeout to draw up a new play. Out of the break, the Lobos drove to the hoop and scored a layup to tie it with 6.1 seconds to play. Wyoming called timeout, and out of the break, the Cowgirls couldn’t score, and the game went to overtime.
The teams struggled offensively to start overtime, and with 2:11 to play, the Lobos scored a transition layup. Sanchez Ramos scored a long three to give UW the lead. However, UNM scored a three to answer. With 41.6 seconds to go, Vitulova scored a free throw to bring the Cowgirls within one, but UNM scored a layup and held on for a 74-71 win.
New Mexico was led by Jaedyn De La Cerda, who scored 17 points and had six assists. Aisia Robertson had 15 points, three rebounds, two blocks and two steals.
The Lobos shot 45.3 percent (29-64) from the field, 36.0 percent (9-25) from three and 77.8 percent (7-9) from the free throw line.
The Cowgirls return to action on Saturday, Feb. 15, when they travel to Fort Collins for the final edition of this year’s “Border War”.