The University of Wyoming Cowgirls got the tears out of the way early Monday during their Senior Night celebration prior to playing San Jose State at the Arena-Auditorium.
Then Cowgirls senior Marta Gomez brought the Spartans to tears in the third quarter.
Gomez torched the San Jose defense for 17 points in the third quarter – all coming in the first eight minutes – to give UW some breathing room en route to a an 85-56 win before a crowd of 2,932.
The Cowgirls (20-6 overall, 13-4 Mountain West) clinched no worse than third place in the MW with the win and Boise State’s victory over New Mexico.
A win by the Cowgirls on Thursday at New Mexico would slide UW up to No. 2.
UW honored Gomez, Bailee Cotton, Clara Tapia, Sladjana Rakovic, Rachelle Tucker and Tijana Raca before Monday’s game.
Not only were the players in tears with their families and friends around them, the whole team spent the ceremony wiping away the tears.
“I didn’t know they’d be able to see the basketball there were so many tears,” Cowgirls coach Joe Legerski said. “It was the whole team and that shows how close this group is. You have to have talent, but you need team chemistry right next to talent.”
UW responded nicely out of the gate, jumping to a 9-2 lead two minutes in and led 22-10 at one point in the quarter.
The Cowgirls held an uncomfortable 37-30 halftime lead and need to separate from San Jose State (5-23, 4-13 MW).
Gomez provided that separation.
After freshman Karla Erjavec hit a jumper to start the third quarter, Gomez hit the next six shots for UW – all without a miss – to push UW’s lead to 18. Two free throws with 2:06 left in the quarter gave Gomez 17 points in the quarter and 21 for the game.
“I just went out and I was open and the shots went in,” Gomez said. “I just keep playing the same way and they find me.”
Gomez was 8 of 11 from the field, including 3 of 4 on 3-pointers to increase her national lead in 3-point shooting to 49.6 percent.
But the Valles, Spain product wasn’t the only offensive highlight for the Cowgirls.
Freshman Quinn Weidemann came off the bench to go 3 of 5 on 3-pointers to score 17 points.
Cotton added 12 points, 12 rebounds and a career-high five steals for her team-leading seventh double-double this season.
Erjavec matched Cotton with her first career double-double with 10 points and a career-high 10 assists while junior Taylor Rusk had nine points and Tapia finished with six assists, most likely going to Gomez.
“A lot of our team, when they start making shots, it’s good to keep finding them,” Tapia said. “When (Gomez's) hot we just keep it going.”
UW was 33 of 65 from the field (50.8 percent), the eighth time this season the Cowgirls have shot over 50 percent in a game. The Cowgirls tied a season high with 27 assists on their 33 made baskets with Gomez adding four and Rusk three.
The 20 wins this year marks the third straight year the current senior group has produced a 20-win season, marking only the second time in UW history that’s happened. The other came during the WNIT/NCAA run back 2006-08. The 13 conference wins also set a record for doing that three straight seasons as well.
That puts this senior group in some elite company in Cowgirls basketball history.
“It means a lot, especially seeing where we started out when I first got here,” Cotton said. “To be able to bounce back and get a group together that will buy in to what we want to do, that’s special. It’s incredible to be part of that kind of history.”
UW beat SJSU for the sixth straight time and owns an 11-3 series edge since the Spartans joined the MW. …. Gomez moved into the No. 2 spot all-time in 3-point makes Monday, passing Kayla Woodward with 245. The game was also Gomez’s 120th of her career, tying Marie Kaufmann for No. 10. … Tapia’s six assists gives her 375 on her career, tying her with Jenny Przekwas for No. 6 all-time.