Cowgirls fall to UNLV in Vegas

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Jan. 31—LARAMIE — The University of Wyoming women's basketball team fell to UNLV in a battle for the top spot in the Mountain West on Wednesday night in Las Vegas 58-51.

"I told this team I dont care about first place on January 31," UW coach Heather Ezell said on the KOWB radio show. "I care about first on March seventeenth. We executed what we wanted to do and forced them to tough shots. We just couldn't get the scoring we needed."

The Cowgirls did everything necessary in the first half to put themselves in position for a win and went into halftime down 26-27. Ezell's keys coming into the game were to avoid foul trouble, force UNLV to play UW's style of basketball and to display focus for a full 40 minutes.

The Pokes (12-8, 7-2) had just three first half fouls but were out rebounded 24-17 in the process.

Late in the first half, Cowgirl senior McKinley Dickerson missed her first free throw of the season ending a perfect 14-of-14 run from the line. UNLV's Desi-Rae Young entered play averaging 19.7 ppg but was held to just three in the first half.

"We told McKinley she needed to come in hot," Ezell said. "Melene did that in the first half as well by finding good angels and getting to the basket."

Fertig scored only two points through two quarters but played a crucial role on defense and committed zero fouls over that span. UNLV was paced by Kiara Jackson with six followed by Ashley Scoggin and Amarachi Kimpson with five.

UW's inability to hit the 3-point shot started to catch up to the Rebels in the third quarter, moving to 1-of-13 (7.7%) on the night. UNLV made two 3-pointers to create the first sign of breathing room in the game.

UNLV (18-2, 8-1) began to pull away in the fourth after reaching its first 10-point lead of the game with 6:53 remaining. UW went scoreless for the first 4:21 of the final frame allowing UNLV to get off to a 10-0 run.

The run ended when Young was called for a flagrant foul after bumping UW senior Marta Savic attempting to advance on a drive to the basket.Young's layup counted before Pedersen converted from the free throw line to bring UW back within 10.

The Cowgirls got within single-digits late in the fourth after junior Tess Barnes made her first 3-pointer of the night. Unfortunately for the Pokes, the team was unable to build enough momentum to mount a comeback.

"We wanted to get (Allyson Fertig) going in the second half," Ezell said. "It's hard to do that when the entire defense is expecting that."

A crucial block by the Rebel defense on Savic in the final minute of the game led to UW having to foul until UNLV saw the bonus. From there, UNLV was able to close the game after UW came within four points late in period.

A strong second-half led to Young scoring 10 in the fourth quarter and a team-high 15 points followed by 12 from Kimpson. Jackson was just shy of a double-double with eight points and nine rebounds.

Emily Mellema and Malene Pedersen scored 12 each to lead the Cowgirls. Fertig and Savic combined for 15 rebounds despite being beat on the glass 36-28 as a team.

The Cowgirls return to the court against the University of Nevada at 2 p.m. on Saturday Feb. 3 in Laramie.

"This one is over, and we have to focus on a good Nevada team coming to town," Ezell said. "We have to take care of business at home, and we can't change our focus now."

WYOMING 51, UNLV 58

UNLV...... 15 12 13 18 — 58

Wyoming........ 15 11 10 15 — 51

UNLV: Young 6-14 3-6 15, Jackson 3-14 2-2 8, Durazo-Frescas 3-6 0-0 8, Obiazor 2-6 0-0 4, Kimpson 5-8 1-1 12, Scoggin 3-6 0-0 7, Brown 1-3 0-0 2, Lott 1-4 0-0 2. Totals: 24-61 6-9 58.

Wyoming: Mellema 5-12 2-3 12, Barnes 2-9 1-8 5, Pedersen 5-9 2-3 12, Ustowska 0-1 0-0 0, Fertig 3-7 0-0 6, Savic 3-5 0-2 6, Dickerson 4-7 1-2 10. Totals: 22-50 5-9 51.

3-pointers: UNLV 4-15 (Durazo-Frescas 2-4, Kimpson 1-2, Scoggin 1-4); UW 2-19 (Barnes 1-8, Dickerson 1-3). Rebounds: UNLV 36 (Jackson 9); UW 28 (Fertig 8). Assists: UNLV 9 (Scoggin 3); UW 8 (Fertig 2, Pedersen 2). Turnovers: UNLV 3 (Three with 1); UW 8 (Barnes 0Pedersen 2, Disckerson 2). Steals: UNLV 0, UW 0. Blocked shots: UNLV 0; UW 4 (Four with 1). Team fouls: UNLV 12, UW 12.

Austin Edmonds covers Laramie High, University of Wyoming and community athletics for WyoSports. He can be reached at aedmonds@wyosports.net. Follow him on X at @_austinedmonds.