LARAMIE – The University of Wyoming women’s basketball team has embraced the saying “saving the best for last.”
The Cowgirls – 6-2 overall and winners of five of their last six – end the nonconference schedule at home at 6:30 p.m. today against South Dakota State.
The Jackrabbits come into tonight’s game 8-4 with three of their losses coming to ranked teams – including a six-point loss to No. 4 Baylor in Las Vegas and an eight-point loss at home to No. 7 Oregon. South Dakota State might not only be the best the team UW will play in the nonconference slate, it may be the best team the Cowgirls will see all season.
“They’re as good as advertised. They’ve been good for a number of years, and it will be a big challenge for us,” Cowgirls coach Joe Legerski said. “This will be the best team we’ll face in the preseason.”
The Jackrabbits have been to postseason play in each of the last 12 seasons under longtime coach Aaron Johnston, including eight trips to the NCAA Tournament.
Ironically, SDSU’s postseason streak started in the 2006-07 season when the Cowgirls beat the Jackrabbits 70-59 in the quarterfinals of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament on their way to the WNIT crown.
South Dakota State comes to Laramie following an 88-67 win at Montana State on Tuesday, a team the Cowgirls beat 66-58 at home on Nov. 27.
“Their system is very good,” Legerski said. “They have a number of people that can score from the 3-point line, they have tremendous size and they’re used to winning at a high level.”
SDSU is led by senior guard Macy Miller, who became the program’s all-time leading scorer earlier this season. The 6-foot Miller, the reigning Summit League player of the year, averages 17.1 points, 5.7 rebounds and 3.2 assists this season.
Five-8 senior guard Madison Guebert averages 13.2 points a game, while 6-2 sophomore guard Myah Selland is next at 11.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and leads the team with 4.0 assists. Six-2 junior forward Tagyn Larson leads the team in rebounding at 6.1 per game while also averaging 7.9 points.
As a team, the Jackrabbits average just over 40 rebounds a game and 7.5 more rebounds than the opposition.
“When you think about how they’re rebounding and winning the rebounding battles, that puts pressure on us. We’re still playing without a true three (forward). We’re playing a couple two guards at the three and asking them to rebound.”
Help may be on the way for the Cowgirls in that regard.
Senior forward Sladjana Rakovic, who was penciled in to start at a forward spot this season after a solid junior campaign, was back on the floor practicing this week after being held out all fall due to foot and hand injuries.
The team had set a target date of early January for Rakovic’s return. UW’s next game after today is Jan. 3 at Boise State to open Mountain West play.
The Cowgirls haven’t played since beating Idaho 64-61 on Dec. 8 to give the team time off for finals.
“We had a good practice Sunday, and we have a lot of energy and we can’t wait to play again,” Cowgirls senior point guard Clara Tapia said Monday. “We’re been playing really well and we want to continue that.”
Tops in the nation
The Cowgirls are No. 1 in the nation in the latest NCAA statistics in 3-point field goal percentage at 43.3 percent. UW has made 71 of 164 3-point attempts and is just a shade ahead of Baylor (43.2) for the top spot. Individually, UW senior Marta Gomez (23 of 45) is No. 9 at 51.1 percent. Cowgirls freshman Quinn Weidemann would be among the top 20 at 48.3 percent (14 of 29), but doesn’t have enough makes to qualify.
Today’s game matches two of the top 35 teams in the nation in field goal percentage. UW is No. 29 at 46.1 percent, while SDSU is No. 35 at 45.6. … A win today would give the Cowgirls their best start since the 2013-14 team started 10-2. … Gomez needs 10 points to jump to No. 23 all-time. … UW is 2-1 all-time against SDSU and 35-9 against teams from the Summit League.
Scott Nulph is the WyoSports assistant editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 307-755-3324. Follow him on Twitter at @ScottNulph.