Oh Wyoming, I have so many conflicted feelings about you. I love your wide open spaces, miss your powdery snow upon it's first landing of the year, still dream about those trips up to the Bighorn National Forest, and I still casually root for them Pokes. Graham Ike also transferred from you to the Gonzaga men's team and I adore you for this. However, those three years I spent there completing my family medicine residency were so wholly uncool, to say the least, that I still cannot dissociate my memories of it when I ponder your state. So when your beloved Cowgirls travel to Spokane to take on my Bulldogs this Saturday, I will be politely, yet wholeheartedly, rooting for your utter defeat.
Sorry, I thought I was writing in my journal, my bad. Anyway, the Wyoming Cowgirls will travel across the Continental Divide to take on the Zags in the McCarthey Center this Saturday at 5pm EST. The game will be televised on ESPN+ so be sure to check it out!
Last season the Cowgirls finished 23-11 overall and 13-5 in-conference to finish 2nd place in the MWC, behind UNLV's 18-0 conference performance, to earn a selection to the WNIT, As a team, the Cowgirls scored 65.6 ppg and allowed 58.6 ppg (which was ranked 43rd nationally). Some other interesting numbers from the 22-23 season include their shooting efficiency inside the arc (51.1%; 25th nationally), defensive rebounding (900; 51st nationally), assists (495; 60th nationally), blocks (129; 61st nationally), turnovers (11.8; 8th nationally), and points allowed (58.6; 43rd nationally).
Last season, Wyoming came up to Spokane and played a tight game that ended with Gonzaga winning 66-64 that was tied with just 20 seconds left on the clock. Yvonne led all scorers with 26 points, including the game-winning shot, on 13-18 shooting along with 4 fouls that limited her to just 24 minutes. I hate to beat the drum about her fouling issues, but with her talent, I just want to see her on the court dominating like she did last game against UNF. McKayla Williams stuffed the stat sheet with 2 blocks and 3 steals to lead all players in both categories. The Bulldogs shot 45.9% overall, but this belies a 3-12 performance from beyond the arc. The Zags narrowly lost the rebounding battle 32-24, but were able to limit offensive rebounds to just 11, while picking up 10 of their own, and only committing 6 turnovers. Unfortunately for Wyoming, their two leading scorers from that game are no longer on the roster so this will likely be a much different offense than the previous matchup.
Heading into this season, the Cowgirls were selected in the MWC Preseason Rankings to finish 3rd, picking up 2 first place votes along the way. So far, the Pokes are 2-1 with wins against University of North Dakota and University of Denver while losing to Nebraska. They have struggled this season offensively as they are averaging just 38.2% from the floor (with only player shooting >40%) and 21.0% from deep (13-62). The team's strength will likely be in slowing the game pace to a crawl and maximizing their defensive performances as they've limited opponents to just 57.3 ppg on 40% shooting overall and 19% from beyond the arc with Allyson Fertig blocking 7 shots already. It's not like they've faced offensive powerhouses in their first three games, but, as seen with last year's matchup with the Zags, they could still have that potential to disrupt opposing offenses from producing effectively.
The team will be coached by Heather Ezell who was previously an assistant at the school for seven years before taking the head coaching position in the 22-23 season. Previously, Ezell was an outstanding player at Iowa State where she tied the school's record for made three-pointers while also taking her team to an Elite 8 appearance in 2009. After college, she played professional basketball in Iceland.
The players of note for the Cowgirls are as follows:
- Allyson Fertig - the 6'4" junior center hailing from Glendo, WY will be a major player for this team heading into this year. Throughout her career, Fertig was named to the Preseason All-Mountain West Team for her second consecutive year while also receiving honors for the the Becky Hammon Mid-Major Player of the Year Award Watchlist entering this year. In the 22-23 season, she finished with 13.3 ppg on 58.6% efficiency, 8.7 rbg, 0.7 spg, and 2.1 bkg, the latter of these ranking her #25 nationally. Look for her to be a force in the paint with her inside scoring and a clear penchant in deterring shots at the hoop. She played well against the Zags last year in her 20 minutes on the court with 9 points and 3 rebounds, but with the other two top scorers in that game departing, she may need to produce more for her team to succeed. In the three games so far this season, she's posted 11.1 ppg on 41.4% efficiency to go along with 8.7 rbg and 2.3 bkg in just over 26 minutes per game. Her shooting percentage is likely a bit artificially deflated after going 2-10 against Denver so I'm expecting this to go up at some point, just hopefully not on Saturday. Given that Yvonne has started this season off strong offensivley, I think these two players could be an interesting watch in this matchup.
- Malene Peterson - the 5'11" sophomore guard from Denmark will be looking to build on her success from last season's MWC Freshman of the Year campaign when she posted 11.0 ppg on 46.7% efficiency (a number held back by shooting 32.1% from three), 4.0 rbg, and 2.4 apg. She returns as the team leader in assists and looks to have taken on that role by already dishing out 8 total on just 2 turnovers while also averaging 10.3 ppg, 4 rbg, and 1.67 spg. Her shooting wasn't great in the Nebraska game (to be fair, no on the Pokes shot well that game), but she was still able to lead her team in scoring by getting to the line 10 times, making 8 of them, so let's hope the Zags can limit her trips to the line to limit her effectiveness.
- Tess Barnes - the 6'2" junior wing from Australia has taken a big step up the team's depth chart with some of the team's departures and currently leads her team in minutes at 27.9 per game. She hasn't shot the bell terribly well this season at 39.1%, but this does fall in line with her average from the 22-23 season (38.3%) and may moreso relate to her poor 3-point shooting to date (3-12). She made some strides offensively against University of Denver to improve those numbers so let's hope the Bulldogs can mitigate her impact on the floor while forcing her into turnovers (9 assists and 9 turnovers this year).
As discussed above, I did spend three years in Wyoming and do believe it's an underrated state, even excluding Yellowstone, so be sure to check it out sometime. Given that this is a Fanposts article and no one edits my work, I'm going to use this freedom to post some photos I took during my time there so skip below to comment about actual basketball since, you know, that's what this whole site is about. Sorry for any distractions.
^looking north from Casper Mtn with Casper completely enveloped in fog
^similar shot as the above photo just at sunset looking north into Casper
^Lake Alcova near Casper; gets crazy in the summer as all the boaters load in and drink "water"
^beautiful small lake in the Bighorn National Forest; great hiking and camping spots
^the gang goes rock climbing down to the river; highly recommend
^the gang goes ice climbing; do not recommend
^the gang admires geothermals at Hot Springs Park in Thermopolis. heck out this cool add for the Days Inn
^outside Newcastle looking out east to the border with SD
^wild clouds and color refractions as the sun says goodnight to use
^when it snows 12" overnight, please you accept your defeat graciously (cue Randy Bennett handshake)
^i found this "medical" video in a small town family clinic; kinda creepy but also funny
^the gang fears for their life when among those improperly storing oxygen tanks