When the Wyoming Cowgirls come into Moby Arena to face Colorado State Wednesday night there will be far more at stake than the usual bragging rights between the two schools.
Wyoming (18-6, 10-3 MW) currently sits in second place in the Mountain West, just one game behind the first place Rams (19-6, 11-2 MW). It is a position that the Cowgirls are not all that familiar with. In the last four years Wyoming has not finished above fifth place in the Mountain West regular season standings. To begin this year they were picked to finish eighth in the conference.
All of that is in the rearview mirror as the Cowgirls make the trip to Fort Collins for the first of two late season showdowns. With first place on the line head coach Ryun Williams remains calm and composed.
“It’s just the next game, the next game is always the biggest game of the year for us,” Williams said. “We do what we do. We prepare with the same urgency and execution that we would any other game. The kids feel the rivalry, they know it. It’s not something that we need to talk about all that much. They know we’ve got a really good opponent, a really good opponent coming into Moby and we’ve got to be ready to go.”
Junior guard Liv Roberts enters the week as the Mountain West’s fourth leading scorer averaging 15.4 points per game and leads the Cowgirls in six different categories. But she is not the first prolific scorer the Rams have faced this season.
In their most recent meeting with San Jose State the Rams held Dezz Ramos, the conference’s leading scorer, four points below her season average. McKynzie Fort of San Diego State scored just nine points against the Rams compared to her season average of 16. The conference’s third leading scorer, Cherise Beynon from New Mexcio, shot an atrocious 5-of-24 against the Rams stifling defense.
They have a tendency to limit a team’s best player, something Williams understands his team must do against Roberts if they want a victory.
“We have to neutralize her. Liv is a very versatile player,” Williams said. “She shoots the ball exceptionally well, she drives it, she plays in the post. Obviously we’ve got to really compete on Liv. If she has a big game, Wyoming probably beats us.”
The Rams are coming back home after an up-and-down two-game road trip. Last Wednesday they had their nine-game winning streak snapped at Utah State. On Saturday, however, CSU righted the ship in a thrilling overtime victory at Fresno State. After Myanne Hamm tied the game with five seconds left in regulation Ellen Nystrom made the game-winner with two seconds remaining in overtime to seal the victory.
Coming off such an emotional victory Williams’ has his sights set solely on the Border War.
“That was a really good win, our competitiveness was really tested,” Williams said. “So yeah our kids feel good about the victory but that isn’t gonna help us beat Wyoming. We’ve got to totally reset and turn our attention to a very efficient, well-coached Wyoming team.”
The Border War will also serve as this year’s Orange Out as the Rams pay homage to their days as Aggies. Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 15.
Collegian sports reporter Colin Barnard can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @ColinBarnard_