* University of Wyoming press release

LAS VEGAS, Nev., -- Signature shots are a staple of the month of March in college basketball. The University of Wyoming women’s basketball team had one of those shots Tuesday during the semifinals of the Mountain West Conference Tournament inside the Thomas & Mack Center.

While it wasn’t a bucket that occurred in the waning moments of the game, it’s one that shifted momentum at a critical early juncture. Tommi Olson drained a 50-foot heave just before the buzzer at the end of the first quarter.

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“That definitely gave us a lot of momentum going into the rest of the game,” Emily Mellema said.

No. 2-seeded Wyoming rode that wave to a 65-56 victory over No. 3-seeded Colorado State and a spot in the championship game. The Cowgirls will battle top-seeded and No. 21 UNLV on Wednesday at 8 p.m. MST on CBS Sports Network.

“I’m proud of this group,” head coach Heather Ezell said. “We came here with the mindset of finishing a business trip. We took care of business again tonight. I’m just really proud of the way all 13 of our kids were engaged. They worked as a group, they moved as one, and we were able to take care of business.”

Wyoming trailed for nearly the entire first quarter. Olson’s heave didn’t change that fact, but it did provide some much-needed wind beneath the Cowgirls’ wings.

The buzzer-beater trimmed Colorado State’s lead to 19-16 at the end of the first quarter. It also sparked a 9-0 run for the Cowgirls and gave them a lead they never relinquished.

“I looked up, saw it go in and thought, ‘Oh my, they’re not winning this game,” Allyson Fertig said.

That shot not included, Wyoming didn’t shoot the ball well from deep for the second consecutive game but found success in close and on second-chance opportunities. The Cowgirls were 20-for-40 (50 percent) from inside the arc – only hitting five of their 17 treys – and owned a 15-2 edge in second-chance points.

That was in large part due to a 50-23 rebounding advantage, 14-1 on the offensive glass. Both Fertig and Grace Ellis logged double-figure rebounding efforts with 15 and 12, respectively.

“They have a size disadvantage, so I thought we did pretty good job attacking them at their weakness in the paint,” Fertig said. “I thought we did a very good job getting those paint touches.”

Fertig and Ellis each had a double-double, as well. Fertig led the Cowgirls with 15 points. Malene Pedersen added 14 points, while Ellis and Emily Mellema tallied 10 points each.

It was a balanced scoring effort from the Cowgirls as a whole. Not only did they have four players in double figures, but every single player that entered the game, aside from one, scored.

Destiny Thurman paced Colorado State with a game-high 19 points. McKenna Hofschild added 14 points.

The Rams finished the game shooting 38.2 percent (21-for-55) from the floor. That included 37.5 percent (9-for-24) from beyond the 3-point line.

The first six points of the second frame made it a 22-19 game in favor of Wyoming. The first-half advantage ballooned to as large as seven on a Fertig layup before ending up 32-28 at halftime.

The Cowgirls gradually extended its lead during the third quarter. It swelled to as large as 10 at 50-40 on a fast-break layup from Pedersen with under two minutes to play in the third.

The fourth quarter started as a 50-43 lead for Wyoming. The cushion never shrunk below five points and didn’t extend past 10 the rest of the way.

Wyoming will now turn its attention to a UNLV squad that took both regular-season matchups this season. The Lady Rebels won 73-67 in December in Las Vegas and took a 71-57 decision the following month in Laramie.

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