Cowgirls Bounce Back in Iowa Tournament

The Cowgirls rebounded from their loss at Colorado this week by winning the Hawkeye Challenge in Iowa City. They had to survive a couple late-game lead changes to pull it off, however…

Iowa City, Iowa – There were points in both of Wyoming's weekend matches when it seemed the team's bad luck in Colorado had traveled with them to Iowa.

After notching their first loss of the season at Boulder on Wednesday, the Cowgirls trailed Saint Joseph's for nearly 36 minutes on Saturday and fell behind Iowa late in the second half the next day before clawing their way back for a pair of victories and a KCRG-TV9 Hawkeye Challenge Tournament Championship.

"We have a senior group of players and we talk everyday about getting better," said head coach Joe Legerski. "No matter who the opponent is, you need to play at the same level. I wasn't necessarily happy with the way we started, but we hung in there and know that it's a 40 minute ball game."

Wyoming (No. 21 AP, No. 22 ESPN/USA Today) needed nearly all 40 minutes against Saint Joseph's in the first round of the tournament. The Cowgirls (8-1 overall) came back from a double-digit halftime deficit and used a 14-2 run to take a 60-53 lead with less than four minutes remaining in the game. The Hawks fought their way back to within three, at 60-57, but Wyoming scored four of the next six to help seal the win.

Aubrey Vandiver led the way with a team-high 20 points and six rebounds. Jodi Bolerjack scored 17 points, and Hanna Zavecz added 12 for Wyoming, which shot 24 of 51 (.471) from the field and six of 17 (.353) from beyond the arc.

Saint Joseph's was led by Amy Gillespie with 20 points. She was followed by Sarah Acker with 14 points and 13 rebounds. The Hawks shot 27 of 55 (.491) from the field while out-rebounding the Cowgirls 35-25.

Both offenses started off slow before the Hawks reeled off eight straight points to take an 8-0 lead through the first media time-out. A basket by Elizabeth Dissen at the 14:34 mark finally got the Cowgirls on the board, but Saint Joseph's responded with a 9-4 run to extend the lead to double-figures at 17-6. The Cowgirls kept their composure and scored the next 10 of 13 to pull within four, but SJU finished the period on a 10-4 run to take a 35-25 advantage into the locker room.

The Championship Game (Dec. 9)…

Sunday's contest saw the Cowgirls get off to a much faster start.

That didn't stop the Hawkeyes from making a game of it down the stretch, though.

Wyoming led by for much of the second half before Iowa went on an 11-1 run to take a 47-43 lead with four minutes to go in the game.

The Cowgirls responded by scoring nine unanswered points to go up 52-47, but a 3-pointer from Wendy Ausdemore pulled the Hawkeyes within 52-50 with under a minute remaining. A pair of defensive stops and two clutch free throws from Vandiver sealed the win.

Three Cowgirls finished the game in double-figures led by Vandiver and Justyna Podziemska with 14 points each. Zavecz followed with 11 points. Podziemska also recorded a team-high eight rebounds.

Iowa was led by Megan Skouby with 15 points and four rebounds. Kristi Smith followed with nine, and Ausdemore scored eight.

The Hawkeyes jumped ahead early, scoring the first six points of the game. Wyoming responded with eight of the next ten to even things up. The teams traded baskets for much of the rest of the first half before the Cowgirls finished the period on a 15-2 run that gave them a 28-18 lead at the break.

Wyoming will now have six days off before traveling to Casper, Wyo. this Saturday (Dec. 15) for the annual Wyoming Shootout where the Cowgirls will face Texas Woman's University.

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