Cowgirls will face UCLA in opening round of NCAA Tourney
LARAMIE -- Gerald Mattinson and his team sat patiently in folding chairs scattered around midcourt of the Arena-Auditorium in Laramie Monday night with all eyes glued to the Jumbotron.
It was supposed to be a big celebration with fans in attendance. A spring blizzard that dropped more than 20" on the Gem City put a halt to that.
Still, the show went on.
Around 5:30 p.m., that Steamboat logo finally appeared on the screen. Wyoming, a 14th seed after rolling through the Mountain West Tournament last week, will face No. 3 UCLA next Monday night at the Frank Erwin Center on the campus of the University of Texas in Austin.
Tip time is scheduled for 8 p.m. MST.
The Cowgirls (14-9) are in the Hemisfair Region, one of the four regions in the women's NCAA Tournament that is named after sites around San Antonio, Texas, the host city.
For Wyoming, this is just the second trip to March Madness in school history. That came back in 2008.
The Bruins (16-5), well, let's just say this has become a habit. UCLA is in the tourney for the fifth straight season. The final Associated Press polls ranked the Bruins No. 9 in the nation.
This region wont be an easy one.
Overall No. 1 seed South Carolina is at the top of the list, followed by a high-scoring Maryland squad out of the Big Ten. After UCLA it goes West Virginia, Georgia Tech, Texas, Alabama, Oregon State, Florida State and North Carolina rounds out the Top 10.
UCLA is led by Michaela Onyenwere. The senior averaged 18.7 points per game this season and pulled down 7.3 rebounds an outing. She also scored a team-high 30 points in the PAC-12 championship game. The Bruins lost that one to another No. 1 seed in this year's tourney, Stanford.
Quinn Weidemann and McKinley Bradshaw will lead the Cowgirls into the postseason for the first time since UW played in the WNIT back in 2019. Bradshaw led all scorers this season, averaging 11.7 points per game. The Lyman product accomplished that coming off the bench.
Wyoming is the lone representative of the Mountain West Conference in this season's tournament. The Cowgirls played just one other team that is in the final field of 64. That was against Gonzaga back on Dec. 8 in Laramie. The Bulldogs rolled to an 89-50 victory.
Last week in Las Vegas, UW knocked off Utah State, UNLV, Boise State and Fresno State in four straight nights to earn its first conference tournament title in program history.
The last time the Cowgirls were in this tournament they fell to No. 6 Pittsburgh, 63-58, in Albuquerque.
The Wyoming-UCLA tilt will be broadcast on ESPN.
These two women's teams have never met on the court before, but these schools have quite the postseason history in other high-profile sports.
Back in 1987, a guy named Fennis Dembo dropped 41 points on Reggie Miller's UCLA Bruins team in the second round of the NCAA Tournament en route to a 78-68 upset in Salt Lake City. Wyoming was the No. 12 seed that season. Before polishing off the No. 4 Bruins, UW beat fifth-seeded Virginia, 64-60.
The Cowboys Sweet 16 run came to an end the following week against UNLV.
Dembo's No. 34 jersey now rests comfortably in the rafters of the A-A in Laramie.
On the gridiron, Corey Bramlet and the Cowboys stunned 14-point favorite UCLA 24-21 in the 2004 Las Vegas Bowl.
With just 57 ticks remaining on the clock, Bramlet threw a strike to John Wadkowski in the back of the end zone to give UW the improbable victory. Bramlet was named the game's MVP after completing 20-of-34 throws for 307 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
It was the Cowboys first bowl win since 1966.
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