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Cowgirls could set all-time wins record with deep WNIT run

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Posted: Wednesday, March 20, 2013 8:00 am

Ask any University of Wyoming Cowgirls basketball fan to name the top teams in program history and a few quickly come to mind.

There’s the 2006-07 team, of course, which won the Women’s National Invitation Tournament championship and went 27-9.

There’s the 2007-08 team that earned the program’s first NCAA tournament appearance and went 24-7.

There’s the 1978-79 team, the first UW team ever to win 20 games and finished at 25-7.

So where does the 2012-13 team fit into this discussion?

At 24-7 heading into Thursday’s WNIT opener against Northern Colorado, this year’s Cowgirls team is already tied for the third-most wins in school history. A deep run in the WNIT could result in setting the wins record kept by that 2007 team and its magical run.

“You look back at what that 2007 team did, winning a WNIT championship, and they’re legends around here,” UW senior forward Chaundra Sewell said. “We’d love to join the ranks of them.”

The difference between the other teams mentioned above and this year’s squad is the previous teams were all coming off solid, if not tremendous, seasons the year before. It was almost expected that they would do well.

This year?

Despite returning all five starters from last year, nobody really knew how good the Cowgirls could be after they finished 12-17 last season.

UW was even picked to finish fifth in the preseason Mountain West poll by the league’s coaches.

As the season progressed, however, you could see a different group from last year.

A more talented group.

A tougher group.

An 11-2 nonconference record led into a 12-4 conference season, which tied the team for the most MW wins ever.

The 24 wins are currently double last year’s total, which represents the biggest increase in victories in one year in program history.

The Cowgirls were a fringe NCAA tournament team over the last month, but couldn’t come up with that one signature win to help sway the NCAA tournament committee.

But it didn’t keep team members from feeling pretty good about themselves.

“They really worked at improving their game, and they believed that they could win,” UW coach Joe Legerski said. “That’s the drive behind it.

“To be able to double your win total and have an opportunity to add to it, that’s going to be what I will remember about this group.”

The 2012-13 Cowgirls have certainly put themselves in the discussion for greatest Cowgirls teams ever. Getting on a roll in the WNIT could cement their position.

“We’ve already kind of put ourselves in that group with the record we have,” sophomore forward Kayla Woodward said. “We’re getting to that level. This group of girls, we all knew that we could be pretty special.

“At the end of last season, we kind of put it together, and it was a little preview of what this year was going to be like.”

Sewell earns another honor

Already a first-team All-Mountain West selection, Sewell added to her honors list Tuesday by being selected to the WBCA All-Region VII Team.

Sewell is joined on the team by San Diego State seniors Courtney Clements and Chelsea Hopkins and Montana senior Katie Baker.

The Broomfield, Colo., product leads the Cowgirls in scoring (14.9 ppg), rebounding (9.7 rpg), blocked shots (1.2 bpg), field-goal shooting (52.6 percent) and free-throw shooting (78.6).

Sewell becomes the first Cowgirl to be named to the team since Hanna Zavecz in 2008.

From the 52-member region list, 10 players will be named to the All-American team. That squad will be announced Saturday, April 6, at the NCAA Women’s Final Four.

Cowgirls game day

What: Women’s National Invitation Tournament

Game: Wyoming (24-7) vs. Northern Colorado (20-12)

Where: Arena-Auditorium, Laramie

When: 7 p.m. Thursday

Radio: 1290 AM (KOWB) Laramie; 1240 AM (KFBC) Cheyenne

Twitter: @ScottNulph

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