By Brittany Piepgrass
With the Mountain West Conference Tournament in Las Vegas right around the corner next week, the BYU women”s basketball team travels to Laramie, Wyo. to challenge Cowgirls, tonight at 6 p.m.
With two games left in the regular season, the Cougars are tied with New Mexico for fourth place in the conference with a 13-13 overall record, and 7-7 record in conference. The Cowgirls are one of the top competitors in the league with 23-5 overall record, and 11-4 season so far in the MWC. The Wyoming squad is in third place and looks to move up the ladder in the final week.
“I think we will match up well against them,” BYU coach Jeff Judkins said. “Wyoming is one of the best offensive teams in the league.”
In the last meeting on Feb. 2, BYU and Wyoming played at the Marriott Center, where the Cougars came out with a big upset, winning against the then No. 15-ranked Cowgirls, 56-42. BYU”s Mallary Gillespie-Carling helped her team pull away from the experienced Cowgirl squad with a 20-point performance.
“We definitely played as a team that game,” BYU”s Lauren Riley-Varley said. “We all executed the game plan.”
Three key players help Wyoming keep their 6-1 record at home this season. Senior forward Hanna Zavecz leads her team with 13.5 points and 5.9 boards. In the MWC Zavecz is ranked first in blocks, averaging 1.67 per game.
Senior Justyna Podziemska also adds to the Cowgirls” offense, and is known for her perimeter shooting which accounts for 12.8 points and 5.7 rebounds. Sophomore Aubrey Vandiver, a versatile player who can contribute at any position on the court, averages 11.3 points and 5.8 boards.
“If we defend and play how we know we can we will beat them,” BYU”s Coriann Wood said on BYU Radio.
BYU will have to pull out their defensive force to defend against Wyoming”s offensive-minded squad. The Cowgirls are in third place in points per game, averaging 64.2 compared to BYU”s 54.7, good for seventh in the conference. Wyoming”s perimeter offense makes it look easy, averaging 42.3 percent from the field goal range, second in the MWC.
BYU”s inside presence with Riley-Varley and Ashley Cheesman gives the Cougars the advantage inside the paint to average 37.6 rebounds compared to the Cowgirls” 34.4.
BYU will have to handle Wyoming”s pressure to keep up in the game, as the Cougars have struggled to keep the ball on offense this season, averaging 18.6 turnovers per game.
“It”s their Senior Night…It”s going to make them probably come out with fire in their eyes,” Riley-Varley said.
In the series history against Wyoming, BYU leads the pack with 45 wins compared to the Cowgirls” 18. When the Cougars travel on the road, they have an 11-18 record at the Arena Auditorium in Laramie.