LARAMIE, Wyo. — The curtain closed on the Wyoming women’s basketball team last season with a lop-sided loss to San Diego State in the Mountain West tournament.
Coach Joe Legerski already had his team’s next step in mind.
“We have to get better defensively,” Legerski said Thursday at UW’s Media Day. “That’s something we’ve been very aware of and we decided that that has to be a point of emphasis greater than what we did offensively. We’ve spent more time with it, the team’s responded very well, we’ve become very aggressive and we’re happy about that.”
Still in the infancy of the season and with a month left before the opener, the Cowgirls have already dedicated entire practices to defensive drills. Not only has this led to a more aggressive mentality, but it’s also made them a better-conditioned team.
The workouts have not hampered the rehabilitation of Bailee Cotton, who is at full health following her second knee surgery in two years.
“Coach has said from day one that we’re going to be a defensive team this year,” Cotton said. “Everyone’s putting in so much work on the defensive end, it’s awesome. There’s a lot of energy going around.”
Her teammates are also responding to the new emphasis. Some of the defensive competition is bringing out the best in the upperclassmen.
“I actually really enjoy it because I love defense and I love battling,” junior Liv Roberts said. “I know that Bailee does and I know that Hailey (Ligocki) is the same way, so that’s something that is exciting for us.”
But the improvements aren’t limited to the defensive end. There was one other part of last season that Legerski felt needed to be addressed.
“The other point is that we have to become a better rebounding team,” he said. “We’re a different team this year, we don’t shoot the ball as well from the perimeter as we’ve done in the past. We can’t play at the same rate, transition-wise, so we look at it as more and more games are going to come down to a defensive stop or an extra rebound.”
This has been addressed through drills in practice and also in changes of positions and in the starting line-up.
Last year’s MW all-freshman team selection, Marta Gomez, has been moved to the three, making her more of a stretch guard where she can capitalize on her perimeter shooting. It also frees up playing time at other guard positions, where the Cowgirls are deep and experienced.
“That moves Liv Roberts to the two and now we get bigger on the court, which is beneficial for us, and we get more scoring on the court,” Legerski said. “That also gives us the opportunity with Bailee Cotton coming back, if we can keep Bailee healthy, there’s a player that plays extremely well at the five.
“So now we have to make adjustments and Marta was the person who we felt had the greatest opportunity to make that adjustment.”
Wyoming has time to make those adjustments before the Nov. 4 opening exhibition against South Dakota Mines. The following week the Cowgirls open the regular season against Chadron State at the Arena-Auditorium.