Cowgirls fire on all cylinders for first win of the Ezell era

Nov. 19—LARAMIE — After suffering a heartbreaking loss to Gonzaga on Tuesday, the University of Wyoming women's basketball team was still searching for its first win.

On Friday, they were able to do just that. The Cowgirls fired on all cylinders and cruised to a 68-45 win over the University of Denver.

"Our kids were ready to get that one in the win column and start rolling," Cowgirls coach Heather Ezell said. "They responded really well after that Gonzaga loss. To be able to come back and the way they started the game, give them a lot of credit."

UW put on an impressive show in the first half. The Cowgirls offense shined, shooting 41% from the field and 45% from behind the arc.

Super-senior Quinn Weidemann led the way for the Cowgirls in the first half with 11 points on a perfect 3-3 from beyond the arc. She missed just two shots in the opening half.

Weidemann didn't do it alone, though. Grace Ellis picked up where she left off against Gonzaga, posting seven points in the first half on 75% shooting. The Cowgirls had all but two players score at least two points in the opening half.

The Cowgirls came out of the break and put together a 15-0 run to take 50-17 lead — their largest lead of the game. The Pioneers mustered up a little bit more of a fight in the tail end of the third quarter, but found themselves in a 55-27 hole entering the fourth.

That proved to be enough of a lead, and the Cowgirls went into cruise control. Despite an 18-point effort from Denver in the fourth quarter, the Cowgirls finished off the game with ease.

UW's defense, after being gashed by Gonzaga on Tuesday, responded in a big way. After allowing just six made field goals in the first half, the Cowgirls finished the game allowing the Pioneers to shoot just 26% from the field (14-for-53 shooting, 4-of-16 from 3). They also forced 15 turnovers and finished plus-four in the rebound margin.

"We did pretty well tonight," Fertig said. "Overall, I thought we just never gave up and kept pushing to the end."

The starters played a major role in the win Friday night. Weidemann led all players in the contest with 18 points on 5-of-11 shooting and finished 4-for-7 from beyond the arc. Sophomore Allyson Fertig finished the game with 13 points and a career-high 21 rebounds. Ellis also finished the game in double digits, posting 11 points on 5-of-8 shooting.

Fertig finished the game just two rebounds off the school record. While she said she would have loved to break the record, she joked after the game she had two-and-a-half more years to break it.

"I just made sure I got good position," Fertig said. "Coach told us that their five-player was a good rebounder, so I made sure to get a body on her."

While the starters played a vital role in the win, they were not forced to do it alone. All but three players who recorded minutes for the UW scored in the game. The bench was led by Ola Ustowska, who has finally seemed to have found her footing after returning from a knee injury she suffered last season.

"They came in tonight and did some really great things," Ezell said. "I have to give a lot of credit to Ola. That is the Ola we saw last year before her injury."

Denver freshman Jordan Jones — a Cheyenne East graduate — scored seven points.

WYOMING 68, DENVER 45

Denver: Brandon 3-9 2-2 8, Minett 3-11 0-0 6, Smith 4-6 4-5 14, Jones 1-8 5-5 7, Haar 1-7 2-4 5, Wilson 1-3 0-0 3, Forney 1-6 0-0 2 Totals: 14-53 13-16.

Wyoming: Ellis 5-8 0-0 11, Fertig 6-11 1-1 13, Pederson 3-6 0-1 6, Weidemann 5-11 4-4 18, Olson 2-7 0-0 4, Mellema 1-6 2-2 4, Barnes 1-5 0-0 2 Ustowska 3-6 2-3 10. Totals: 26-65 9-10.

Halftime: UW 35-17. 3-pointers: Denver 4-16 (Brandon 0-2, Smith 2-3, Jones 0-2, Haar 1-3, Wilson 1-3, Forney 0-3); UW 7-23 (Ellis 1-2, Fertig 0-1, Pederson 0-1, Weideman 4-7, Olson 0-2, Mellema 0-2 Barnes 0-3, Ustowska 2-4 Wilborn 0-1). Rebounds: Denver 38 (Brandon 11, Minett 11); UW 42 (Fertig 21). Assists: Denver 7 (Haar 3), UW 14 (Olson 3); Turnovers: Denver 15 (Jones 5), UW 9 (Olson 3). Blocks: Denver 5 (Haar 2); UW 5 (Fertig 3). Steals: Denver 6 (Brandon 1, Smith 1, Jones 1, Haar 1, Forney 1, Jones 1); UW 8 (Olson 3). Team fouls: Denver 17, UW 10. Fouled out: UW 1 (Savic).

Matt Atencio covers Laramie County prep sports for WyoSports. He can be reached at matencio@wyosports.net. Follow him on Twitter at @MattAtencio5.