Air Force Knocks Off Wyoming, 69-66, in OT
USAFA, Colo. -
Aggressive second-half play by the Falcon freshmen paid off dividends as the Air Force women's basketball team overcame a 12-point halftime deficit to defeat Wyoming, 69-66, in overtime, Saturday afternoon in Clune Arena. The Falcons improve to 7-13 overall and 2-5 in the MWC, while Wyoming drops to 12-8, 3-4 in conference play. With the win, Air Force matches its Division I-best season win total and sets a new record for most conference wins in the MWC in a single season.
Wyoming owned the opening half, getting out to an early 5-0 lead. While Air Force came back to tie the game at 6-6, the Cowgirls responded with a 7-0 run to regain their advantage, which they held onto for the rest of the half. Despite a few offensive flurries by the Falcons, Wyoming took a 34-22 lead into intermission, hitting 45 percent from the field, including five shots from beyond the arc.
The second half was a completely different story, as the Falcons seemed to have something to prove in front of its biggest crowd of the season. Air Force began working away at the margin, pulling within 10 with 14:35 remaining in the half. The Falcons went on to score the next five points, including four by freshman Ashley Mickens (Eagle River, Alaska), but Wyoming again stretched its lead to eight points at 44-36.
Not ready to back down, Air Force went on an 8-0 run to tie the game for just the second time, fueled by solid play from Mickens, Andrea Taylor (So., Sugar Grove, Ill.), Alecia Steele (Fr., Oklahoma City, Okla.) and Ellen Jaeschke (Fr., Cary, Ill.). However, Wyoming responded by scoring seven straight to regain control. Once again, Mickens' hustle on both ends of the court helped ignite a spurt by the Falcons that tied the game again, capped off by a jumper by Steele at the 3:23 mark.
Twice more, Wyoming regained the lead, and twice more, Air Force had an answer. After a pair of free throws by Wyoming's Ashley Elliott gave the Cowgirls a 56-54 advantage, Steele grabbed an offensive board on the other end and was fouled on the game-tying putback. Her free throw gave Air Force its first lead of the game with 1:25 remaining in regulation. Freshman Lauren Henderson (Nixa, Mo.) hit a pair of free throws with 24 seconds on the clock to put the Falcons up 59-56, but Wyoming's Kristen Lenhardt drained a three with 10 seconds left to bring about the third overtime game of the season for Air Force.
The Cowgirls scored the first bucket in overtime, but the Falcons came back to tie and then take a 64-61 lead. However, three straight free throws by Wyoming tied the game for the eighth time with 1:10 left on the clock. A driving layup by Henderson with 44.6 seconds remaining put Air Force back up, but Wyoming's Erin Hicks responded with a jumper just 20 seconds later. With a chance to avoid another overtime period, Henderson once again went in for the score, getting fouled on the drive to set up an opportunity for a three-point play. The free throw was good, as Air Force held on for the 69-66 victory, its first win in overtime this season.
"It's probably one of the best games we've played all year," said head coach Ardie McInelly. "We haven't been able to play all 40 minutes in a game and today, we did that and then some. When we were down by 15, we could have given up, but we didn't. We played a lot of freshmen today and they did a great job for us. It was just a great team effort. Our goal was to hold their top three scorers under their season average, and we did that. We executed our game plan to a T."
Steele and Henderson led the Falcons, who shot over 40 percent for the game, with 15 points each. Steele added a team-high nine rebounds, while Henderson recorded eight assists and just one turnover. Meanwhile, Mickens tallied a career-high nine points and eight rebounds, including six offensive boards.
Wyoming was led by Elliott with 15 points, while Lenhardt added 13. In addition, Erin Hicks notched a double-double with 11 points and 11 rebounds.
The Falcons remain home next week, as they host New Mexico on Thursday, Feb. 10 to start out the second half of conference play. Game time is slated for 7:00 p.m. in Clune Arena.