LARAMIE – Less is more is usually not what an athlete believes in.
But for University of Wyoming senior point guard Clara Tapia, the statement is playing out well — and for the team.
UW (8-3 overall, 1-1 Mountain West) hosts San Diego State at 6:30 p.m. tonight at the Arena-Auditorium.
Tapia came to UW late in the summer of 2016 with the Cowgirls needing depth at the point guard position.
Tapia provided more than depth, starting all 32 games as a sophomore while averaging 6.2 points and 4.5 assists. The 5-foot-7 guard also played 30.2 minutes a game, the second-highest average on the team.
As a junior, Tapia averaged 4.6 points and 4.3 assists in 33 starts and played 31.7 minutes, third-highest on the team.
In those years, Tapia had assist-to-turnover ratios of 1.6-to-1 as a sophomore and 1.8-to-1 as a junior.
This season Tapia’s minutes have been reduced by about five to 26.8 with the addition of freshman guard Karla Erjavec to help run the point.
Tapia is still averaging 3.6 points and 3.8 assists — which leads the team. Just as importantly, Tapia has only turned the ball over 12 times in 11 games and has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 3.5-to-1, which ranked sixth in the country starting the week.
Five extra minutes might not sound like a lot — but added up over a 30-plus game schedule — there were times Tapia appeared a little run down, especially as Mountain West play wore on.
“One of the things I’m always concerned about is fatigue,” Cowgirls coach Joe Legerski said. “Over Clara’s first two years she was really the only point guard we had on the floor so fatigue becomes a factor. She’s also a veteran player who understands her game more and where to help this team.
“Everybody knows that Clara can create for you and it’s about the decisions that she makes and I do believe that being rested allows her to play at a higher level.”
That in turn allows others to play at a higher level as well.
Junior guard Taylor Rusk is second on the team in assists with 39 and is fourth in the country in assist-to-turnover ratio at 3.9-to-1. Erjavec adds 29 assists as the Cowgirls have six players with 11 or more assists.
The pressure to be the main distributor isn’t there this year for Tapia as in previous years.
“I just try to do the most with whatever coach thinks is the best for me and the team,” Tapia said. “I don’t think about I should be playing more or playing less, I think in the way that when I’m on the court I try and do my best.”
Tapia and the Cowgirls have done a good job this season of not only distributing the basketball, but taking care of it as well.
UW ranks second in the nation in fewest turnovers per game at 10.8 and the team’s turnover-to-assist ratio of 1.45-to-1 ranks seventh.
“It’s a very important thing for me to take care of the ball,” Tapia said. “That’s important for everybody on the team. That allows us to play well offensively.”
Even if that means playing a few less minutes.
“Clara’s by far playing the best of her three years here,” Legerski said. “She’s playing less minutes, but being more efficient and productive on the court.”
About San Diego State
SDSU (5-7 overall, 0-1 MW) started conference play on Saturday with a 69-66 home loss to Boise State.
SDSU has been led by an influx of newcomers this season.
Freshman 5-9 guard Sophia Ramos has led the Aztecs, averaging 15.5 points and 4.7 assists. Fellow freshman forward Mallory Adams averages 11.7 points and 8.0 rebounds.
Sophomore guards Naje’ Murray and Te’a Adams add 13.4 points and 11.0 points.
“They play well within their system and have a number of players who can score,” Legerski said. “That creates a lot of pressure on you defensively. They’ll isolate you with the on-ball screens and if you’re not sharp defensively with the rotations, they’ll take advantage of your mistakes.”
Tonight’s game matches two of the top three 3-point shooting teams in the MW. The Cowgirls lead the nation at 43.7 percent while the Aztecs are third in the league at 33.5 percent.
Scott Nulph is the WyoSports assistant editor. He can be reached at email@example.com or 307-755-3324. Follow him on Twitter at @ScottNulph.