* University of Wyoming Athletics media relations release

LAS VEGAS, Nev., -- A shorthanded Wyoming Cowgirl basketball team fought hard at UNLV Friday afternoon in Vegas, keeping the league’s highest-scoring offense well below its season average, but it wasn’t enough as the Cowgirls fell 66-60.

Wyoming battled back from a 17-point deficit in the second half but couldn’t quite reel in the Lady Rebels late. UW had a chance to take the lead with 32 seconds left on an Ola Ustowska 3-pointer but missed the shot long and UNLV escaped with the win.

Turnovers proved to be the downfall for the Cowgirls in the loss as they committed a season-high 21 on the day, leading to 17 UNLV points. Wyoming held the Lady Rebels to nearly 10 points below their season average. UNLV entered the contest averaging 75.7 points per game.

The Cowgirls (5-6, 1-1 MW) got off to a slow start Friday as UNLV (10-3, 2-0 MW) scored the game’s first 11 points before Quinn Weidemann’s driving layup got UW on the board for the first time. Weidemann got the first two buckets of the contest for UW and had six overall in the opening quarter. The Cowgirls trailed 15-4 at one point in the first but ended the frame on a 7-0 run and trailed just 15-11 after one.

In the second quarter, Wyoming’s offense struggled to get going as the Cowgirls scored just eight points in the quarter and trailed 29-19 at the break. UNLV ended the second on a 10-4 run over the final 5:40 of the first half. The Cowgirls committed 13 first half turnovers, leading to 10 Lady Rebel points.

The third quarter began with a pair of UNLV free throws before back-to-back hoops from the Cowgirls cut the deficit to 31-24 with 8:46 to play in the frame. However, that would be as close as UW would get in the third as the Lady Rebels would push the lead to as many as 17, 47-30, in the quarter with 2:43 remaining.

The Cowgirls would respond though, scoring seven-straight thanks to a Grace Ellis 3-pointer and four consecutive free throws from Weidemann to cut the deficit to 47-37. The two teams traded hoops to end the frame as UNLV took a 50-39 lead into the fourth quarter.

An Ustowska 3-pointer opened the period for the Cowgirls and was followed up by an Allyson Fertig layup made it 50-44. UNLV would respond with back-to-back hoops before a Paula Salazar 3-pointer with 6:08 to play got the deficit back to 54-47. After the two teams traded “old-fashioned” three-point plays, the Cowgirls trailed 57-50 with 4:40 remaining and led to the fourth quarter media timeout.

Out of the timeout, UW got a hoop from Fertig to make it 57-52 and followed that up with a pair of Tommi Olson free throws with 2:25 to go before UNLV answered with a bucket. The Cowgirls would cut the deficit to 60-58 with just 1:18 remaining thanks to four consecutive free throws from Fertig and Weidemann. Wyoming had a chance to take the lead with under 30 seconds to go but missed a good look from three and UNLV got the board and hit the free throws to go up 62-58.

After a UW timeout, another Cowgirl turnover led to two more freebies for UNLV before Weidemann’s layup cut it to 64-60 with just 15 to go. UNLV would hit the two free throws from there and salt the game away to survive the furious Cowgirl comeback.

“I’m very happy with their effort,” UW head coach Gerald Mattinson said. “It took them awhile to get going. We had a lot of young kids that got to experience firsthand today what it means when the game is on their shoulders, and they have to perform. I thought we played well, but a lot of credit goes to UNLV, they made some plays when they needed to today. It’s been a long trip. A lot of credit goes to my staff, they were able to get these kids ready and to play hard today.”

Weidemann led three Cowgirls in double figures with a game- and season-high 19 points on 6-of-9 shooting from the field. Wiedemann also hit a season-best 7-for-7 from the free-throw line. Olson had a solid all-around performance in the loss as she scored a season-high 11 points and added five boards, a season-best five steals and had a pair of assists. Fertig chipped in with 10 points and was just one rebound shy of her third double-double of the season as she ended with nine rebounds.

Wyoming shot 21-of-51 from the floor for a 41.2-percent clip and hit just 5-of-22 (22.7 percent) from 3-point range. Four of those 3-pointers came in the second half. UNLV meanwhile hit nearly 43-percent of its shots (21-for-49) and made 5-of-15 from beyond-the-arc. The Lady Rebels also made 19-of-21 at the free-throw line while the Cowgirls didn’t miss a shot at the charity stripe, going 13-for-13.

Both teams had 24 points in the paint while the Cowgirls had a slim 4-2 edge in second-chance points. The Lady Rebels outscored UW 12-5 in fast break opportunities and their bench outscored the Cowgirls’ 15-9.

UW now looks to rebound in the New Year with its first home Mountain West contest of the season as the Cowgirls welcome Boise State to the Arena-Auditorium Monday, January 3 in a 6:30 p.m., contest.

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