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Minnesota pulls away from Cowgirls late ending UW season in Great 8 of WNIT

Apr 01, 2024; Laramie, WY, USA; WNIT; Wyoming Cowgirls guard Emily Mellema (2) against the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the WNIT at Arena-Auditorium. The Cowgirls lost to the Golden Gophers 65-54. (Troy Babbitt-UW Media-Athletics)

LARAMIE, Wyo. — The Minnesota Golden Gophers pulled away late as the Wyoming Cowgirls’ 2023–24 season came to a 65–54 end Monday night in the Great 8 round of the WNIT. The Gophers outscored UW 25–14 in the fourth.

Both teams began the game with some strong defensive possessions, but Minnesota was able to crash the offensive glass to help it take a 7–4 lead at the first media timeout. After the timeout, the Cowgirl offense continued to struggle. However, a McKinley Dickerson three-point play knotted things up at 7–7. The Golden Gophers led after one, 17–7, as turnovers and missed shots plagued UW the rest of the quarter.

The second quarter saw more offensive woes for the Cowgirls before six consecutive points from Allyson Fertig cut the deficit to six points. A Maren McKenna 3-pointer with 6:04 left made it 21–16 as a stoppage in play took the game to the second-quarter media. Following the media timeout, Minnesota continued to find the answers offensively and pushed the lead back out to nine before the Cowgirls responded with back-to-back layups to make it 25–20 with a little over three minutes left in the half. UW had a couple of good looks to cut into the deficit even more, but couldn’t get the shots to fall; Minnesota led 29–24 at the half.

After getting off to a sluggish start to begin the second half, the Cowgirls scored the first six points of the third and took their first lead since early in the first quarter, on a Malene Pedersen 3-pointer, forcing Minnesota to take a timeout with 6:32 left in the frame. Out of the timeout, the two teams traded scores as Wyoming led 35–34 at the media. Back-to-back scores out of the timeout from UW pushed the lead to 40–34 before the Gophers ended the quarter with a 6–0 surge to tie things up heading to the fourth. The Cowgirls ended the quarter with turnovers on three consecutive possessions.

Wyoming got the first three points of the fourth before Minnesota reclaimed the lead, 44–43. The lead was traded from there, and the Golden Gophers had a 48–45 advantage at the final media. The final six minutes, Minnesota stayed out in front and stretched the lead up to nine with a minute left, forcing a UW timeout. The Cowgirls couldn’t get an outside shot to fall before it was a little too late. UM was able to stretch the lead late thanks to trips to the free-throw line as Wyoming kept intentionally fouling.

Fertig recorded her sixth double-double in the last seven games to end the season and recorded her second consecutive 20-point game as she finished the night with 20 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks. Fertig was the only Cowgirl in double figures as Dickerson scored nine and Malene Pedersen added seven. Marta Savic chipped in with six off the bench.

Wyoming was held to under 40% shooting (21–53) from the floor and made just 4-of-19 from 3-point range. The Golden Gophers shot 24-for-58 (41.4%) and shot just 2-of-7 from beyond the arc. Minnesota made seven more free throws than the Cowgirls and ended up plus-eight on the glass.

UW had a 32–28 edge in points in the paint and scored 20 bench points to Minnesota’s nine. The Gophers were 8–0 on second-chance points and had a 12–4 advantage in points off turnovers. The Cowgirls committed 12 turnovers to Minnesota’s seven.

The Cowgirls finish the 2023–24 campaign at 18–15 overall.

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