LAS VEGAS — The University of Wyoming women’s basketball team made history late Tuesday night in Sin City.
The third-seeded Cowgirls defeated seventh-seeded San Diego State 75-70 in overtime to advance to their first ever championship game at the Mountain West Women’s Basketball Championship at the Thomas & Mack Center.
UW (22-7) plays No. 1 seed Boise State at 8 p.m. MT today, and for a spot in the NCAA Tournament. The two teams split the regular-season series, with both teams winning at home.
"Neither team was going to give an inch, the lead changed 15 times and it was tied 15 times. If you add two more minutes, who knows what the outcome is," UW coach Joe Legerski said. "What I got out of the game was how hard San Diego State and Wyoming competed to try and get a victory."
This game was much different than the lone regular-season meeting between the two teams, a game UW won 87-45 in Laramie on Jan. 9.
Senior forward Marta Gomez scored 13 of her game-high 25 points in overtime, including eight points from the free-throw line.
"There was a lot of pressure on our team, and I thought Marta felt the pressure early. In overtime, this senior wasn't going to be denied. She kept making big shot after big shot," Legersk said.
Added Gomez: "Once we got into overtime I knew we were going to get this game. Our team deserves to play in the championship game. I felt like the pressure was off of us at that point. I don't think this team was ready to go home yet. I felt like I needed to be there for my teammates in overtime, and I am glad the shots went in."
True freshman Karla Erjavec scored five straight points in overtime on a basket and two free throws that gave the Cowgirls a 69-64 lead with 47.1 seconds to play.
Erjavec got UW into overtime after she made two free throws with 5.7 seconds left in regulation. San Diego State wasn’t able to get a shot up before the final buzzer.
"My emotions were overwhelming, but I tried to calm myself down. I knew I had to make those free throws to force overtime," Erjavec said. "I'm glad I delivered."
UW took a 56-51 lead with 2:58 left in regulation after a runner in the paint by junior Taylor Rusk. San Diego State tied the game at 56-56 with a basket by junior center Zayn Dornstauder with 1:23 left. Dornstauder gave her team a 58-56 lead with 23.3 seconds to play with a layup. It looked like senior forward Bailee Cotton was in position to draw a charge, but the officials called nothing.
UW shot just 36.7 percent in the game (22 of 60), but was 23 of 24 from the free-throw line and was 8 of 20 from 3-point range. Gomez was 3 of 4 from behind the arc and made all 10 of her free throws. Erjavec had 16 points and Cotton added 12. Rusk had an impressive line with nine points, four rebounds, five assists and four steals.
San Diego State (14-18) shot 50 percent from the field, and scored 46 points in the paint. and it gave UW fits attacking it off the dribble. But the Aztecs were 3 of 10 from 3-point range and got to the free-throw line only 10 times, although they made nine.
"We decided we would give up some baskets, but we're not going to give up that extra point (on 3-pointers)," Legerski. "That extra point is how we play. When you look at this game, we made five more 3s than San Diego State. That's five extra points, and the difference in the game."
Four players scored in double figures for San Diego State, led by freshman guard Sophia Ramos’ 16. Freshman guard Mallory Adams and sophomore guard Naje Murray both had 14.
"This hurts because I felt like this group of young women put themselves in a great situation to be successful, and the ball didn't bounce our way tonight," San Diego State coach Stacie Terry said.
UW beat Boise State 64-52 in Laramie on Jan. 26, and lost at Boise State 72-64 to open conference play Jan. 2. Last season, Boise State defeated UW in Laramie that cost the Cowgirls a shot at a regular-season MW championship.
"We just need to come play our game and whatever happens, happens," Gomez said. "As coach told us in the locker room, we need to enjoy the moment that we're living. It will be a great experience for us to be able to actually play in that game."
This was the first time this season UW was tied at halftime. … Erjavec had 10-first half points, which was the first time in her career she scored in double figures in an opening half. … The Cowgirls have played in the semifinals of the MW Tournament seven times. … UW is 10-19 all-time at MW Tournament, and 2-4 against San Diego State in conference tournament play.
Robert Gagliardi is the WyoSports senior editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or 307-755-3325. Follow him on Twitter at @rpgagliardi.