The visiting Rams gave Mountain West leader Wyoming their only blemish in an otherwise perfect January on Wednesday night in a record-setting victory, 64-53.
The win served as the record for coach Ryun Williams. With his 130th win, Williams now stands alone in program history in total wins, in just his sixth season at the helm. Leading the Rams to multiple conference titles in his tenure thus far, Williams will look to extend his success in comeback fashion in the standings for the sluggish starting Rams.
A lock tight beginning for the two teams was expected after their first matchup was decided by less than five points. The Border War rivals exchanged runs, with the home team utilizing a strong finish to the quarter to pull within two of the visiting Rams.
Yet again, a key for the Rams who struggled on offense early was their defense, which forced four turnovers. The Rams only allowed the Cowgirls to make a third of their shots, with only a single make from beyond the arc. Redshirt freshman Liah Davis led the way for the Rams inside with four points early, a team-high for the opening quarter.
“Overall, we just have to see what we have first,” Davis said. “If we don’t have it going, we pass it back out, but overall were always thinking to attack the middle, attack to score.”
Coach Ryun Williams embraced a constant rotation for the Rams in the early going as the team was in foul trouble from the opening tip. The Cowgirls were able to exploit a smaller starting lineup from Williams, loaded with outside shooters and their usual suspects at guard with redshirt freshman Grace Colaivalu and redshirt senior Hannah Tvrdy.
Overall, the Rams hung 28 on the Cowgirls in the first half, a vast improvement over their 14-point total in their first matchup. Every point mattered as the Cowgirls upped their first half total from the first matchup by three as well.
Davis finished the opening half with eight points, all within 10 feet of the basket. Tvrdy also accrued her total down low with only three of her nine coming from outside.
The locker room served as a turning point for the hosting Cowgirls, who came out firing, scoring seven in the first three minutes of the closing half and taking their first lead of the contest. The hot start was highlighted by Cowgirls senior Liv Roberts reaching 1,000 points in her career with Wyoming with a standing ovation ensuing for the achievement by the resident Wyoming fans.
Coming to the rescue once again for a sparse Rams’ offense was Tvrdy. After a week in which she was named the Mountain West Player of the Week, she once again came out firing, posting a team-high 25 points, accompanied by eight rebounds.
“My mindset has changed,” Tvrdy said. “Just telling myself to be more aggressive and once you get more aggressive and shots start falling, your confidence goes up, the hoop gets a lot bigger.”
Tvrdy’s run capped the Rams dominant closing quarter in which they went reached double digits (10) before allowing a Cowgirls field goal. The run allowed the travelers to pull away in an upset victory.
A mindset of ignorance towards personal achievement for the good of the team has always been the motto for a Williams coached team and the trend continued once again.
“We go game by game, we don’t look ahead, don’t look behind,” Williams said. “We always just say onward. Our kids are smart, they know how good Wyoming is and they know how vulnerable we can be if you worry about (records and) that kind of crap.”
The Rams return home before traveling once again for a Saturday afternoon matchup against the Nevada Wolfpack. The climb to first for the Rams continues with the win over leader Wyoming after a slow start to their conference season.
Collegian sports reporter Luke Zahlmann can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @lukezahlmann.