Tuck’s Takes: Lose on 307 Day? To That Team? No Chance
LAS VEGAS, Nev., -- You didn't really think the Cowgirls were going to lose on 307 Day, did you?
To that team? After what happened last year in this building? With an appearance in the Mountain West Championship game on the line?
Wyoming punched its ticket to the title tilt Tuesday night with a 65-56 victory over its Border War rival Colorado State, erasing memories of a fourth-quarter collapse a season ago inside the Thomas and Mack Center that sent the Cowgirls packing.
They did it the old fashion way, too.
On the glass. In the paint. Off the bench. With defense.
Despite facing a constant double team, Allyson Fertig did plenty of that damage on her own. The Glendo native netted a team-high 15 points and pulled down the same number of rebounds for her 19th career double-double. Wyoming's sophomore forward was 6-of-12 from the field and scored 10 points in the second quarter, helping erase an early five-point deficit.
She wasn't alone.
Malene Pedersen put 14 points on the board 5-of-13 shooting. She also dished out five assists. The conference's Freshman of the Year sank back-to-back buckets in the third quarter, handing the Cowgirls a double-digit cushion.
Grace Ellis, who capped her night with 10 points, led the team with a pair of triples -- including a dagger with 6:18 to go -- when those weren't exactly falling for the Cowgirls. They were 5-of-16 in that category, to be exact. No worries, points were readily available up close. Wyoming outscored the Rams 36-18 in the paint.
Speaking of the square.
Ellis snagged a dozen rebounds in this one. The Cowgirls claimed that stat line with ease, 50-23, including an eye-popping 14-1 advantage on the offensive glass. It was nothing short of a clinic.
Sophomore guard Emily Mellema also finished with 10. The birthday girl was 4-of-5 from the field while running the point, a job she should take over fulltime next season.
Then there was the performance of Quinn Weidemann.
While it wasn't her night from the field -- 1-of-7, four points -- the Cowgirls are likely hopping on a bus and heading to the airport right now if it wasn't for the job she did on the league's Player of the Year, McKenna Hofschild.
CSU's guard -- all 5-foot-2 of her -- typically sinks around 21 and dishes out more than seven helpers a game. Stats like that will land you hardware like that.
That wasn't the case tonight, to say the least.
Weidemann shadowed her every move, holding the senior to just two points on 1-of-4 shooting in the first half. Eventually Hofschild got it going. She put 14 on the scoreboard, including seven in the final frame. But it was too little, too late. Looking into the rafters and smacking her hands together in frustration, that will be the lasting image from this one.
"Once again, I've been saying this since the beginning of the year, you've got a kid named Quinn Weidemann that we can put on the best player on the other team," UW's first-year head coach Heather Ezell said. "There's a reason she's been on the all-defensive team for three years. She has that ability. She takes pride in it. She lives and dies on that defensive end, and she takes it personal."
Weidemann said her game plan was a simple one.
"I think, you know, just trying to stay in front of her," she said of her top-secret strategy. "She likes to get into people and try to use their body and get fouls, stuff like that. I was just trying to stay off her and limit fouls."
Hofschild attempted just four free throws on the night. Weidemann didn't draw her first whistle until the 7:17 mark of the fourth quarter.
It's fitting that on Wyoming's unofficial holiday, it was a local that drilled a half-court buzzer beater to end the first quarter, sparking a 12-2 run that gave the Cowgirls a lead they would never relinquish.
That came courtesy of Worland's Tommi Olson.
"If I'm being honest, I threw it up there and I was like, 'well, that's straight,'" she joked about her heave. "I was like, 'There's no way it's making it' and
then it went through."
Fertig, the former Douglas High School star, well, the numbers speak for themselves. She has now reached double figures in scoring 38 times in her brief career. She played just 61 games.
She knew Olson's prayer meant something.
"I looked up, saw it go in and thought, 'Oh my, they're not winning this game," Fertig said with a smile.
It was a happy 307 Day for everyone not named Ryun Williams. CSU's head coach, a Gillette native, was realistic after this one.
“They just flat-out beat us," he said. "That’s the bottom line."
Did the thought of last year's 19-3 fourth-quarter meltdown even creep into these ladies' minds tonight? You bet it did.
You don't ever forget witnessing your nemesis dance on your grave.
"I remember that game because I didn't play very well," Fertig said. " ... I felt more confident going into this game. But, yeah, it's a little revenge from last year."
The grin that followed punctuated that point.
Ezell vividly recalls that setback, too.
"We came into the game tonight knowing exactly what happened last year," she said. "I think that they had that chip on their shoulder going, 'Hey, this is the team that knocked us out.' We didn't want to get in that position. You have to give our kids credit, they made plays when they really needed to."
Wyoming's "business trip" continues tomorrow night when they meet the No. 21 UNLV Lady Rebels inside their home arena. That team hasn't lost to a conference opponent since March 2, 2022. Tipoff is slated for 8 p.m. Mountain Time. The game will be televised on CBS Sports Network.