Taylor Rusk

Taylor Rusk

LARAMIE – For the second-consecutive game, the University of Wyoming women’s basketball team held a halftime lead on the road, but struggled in the third quarter on their way to a loss. UW fell to UNLV by a final score of 65-53. The Cowgirls have now lost three in a row.

“It’s kind of become our story,” said UW coach Gerald Mattinson in a news release. “The last three or four games, that’s our storyline. We play well enough defensively, play a great first half, but the third quarter is just killing us. We don’t have any idea why. We’ve talked with captains, we’ve talked with the team, the team has talked. You’re not going to beat teams scoring in single digits coming out of halftime. It’s just not going to happen.”

The Cowgirls were led offensively by senior Taylor Rusk and sophomore Tereza Vitulova. Rusk scored a season-high 16 points, shooting 6 of 9 from the field. Vitulova matched Rusk’s scoring with 16 points and grabbed five rebounds.

The Rebels began the game with a pair of free throws before Vitulova made a 3. Following four UNLV points, a Rusk 3 tied the game, 6-6, and UW used a quick 5-0 run to make it 11-6 with 5 minutes, 23 seconds to play in the opening frame. On the final possession of the quarter, UW freshman Jaeden Vaifanua made a layup to make it 20-16.

The Rebels (8-8 overall, 4-1 Mountain West) started the second quarter with a pull-up jumper in the paint, and Vitulova answered with a hook shot on the baseline for UW, making it 22-18 with 7:24 to play in the half. Sophomore Alba Sanchez Ramos ended a 3:10 Cowgirl scoring drought with a pair of free throws, and Rusk drilled a 3-pointer on UW’s next possession to make it 30-24 for UW. UNLV added a layup, and the teams went into the locker room with UW (7-8, 3-3) leading 30-26.

After trading baskets, the Lady Rebels scored three straight free throws to make it a one-point game with 4:33 remaining in the third quarter. Vitulova snapped a 5-0 UNLV run with a layup, but the Lady Rebels scored on their final possession of the quarter and led 44-39 going into the final period.

Rusk scored from the near corner to begin the fourth quarter and converted an and-one to cut the lead to one point, 48-47, with 6 minutes to play. Rusk stole the ball and found Vitulova on a fastbreak for a layup on the next possession to give UW a 49-48 lead, forcing a UNLV timeout.

Out of the break, the teams traded baskets and the lead changed five times until UNLV scored four free throws to go up 56-53 with 2:41 to play. A corner 3 by the Lady Rebels capped a 9-0 run and sealed the game.

The Cowgirls continue conference play when they host Nevada at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in Arena-Auditorium.

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