WBK: Cougs secure WNIT Sweet 16 spot with win at Wyoming

The Cardiac Cougars survived and advanced for the second time in three days as the Washington State women's basketball team earned a 68-67 overtime win on the road at Wyoming Saturday afternoon in a WNIT second round game,

The win sent the Cougars (14-19) into the round of 16 in the Women's National Invitational Tournament as WSU picked up just its second postseason victory in program history.

Junior Pinelopi Pavlopoulou led WSU with a career-high 20 points, while adding 4 assists. Her classmate, Caila Hailey, added 12 points and 6 assists, while sophomore Alexys Swedlund and senior Ivana Kmetovska each added 10 points.

Hailey and Swedlund each chipped in 8 rebounds. Natalie Baker was the only Cowgirl in double figures with 18 points, adding 6 rebounds and 4 steals. The Cowgirls (22-10) completed their season with the loss as the Cougars handed Wyoming just its third home loss of the season.

With the game on the line and needing just one stop to win the game, the Cougars knew they were in the position they needed to be as WSU fell back on its stifling defense to claim the victory. For a full 30 seconds, the Cougars clamped down on the Cowgirls, shutting down every passing lane and every route to the basket before giving up a contested off balance shot in the corner that came up woefully short.

For WSU, the final possession was just a microcosm of their play throughout the game and especially in overtime as the Cougs allowed just 3 points in the extra period to come away with the win.

The overtime period was just a continuation of their lockdown defense late in games as the Cougars allowed just 8 points in the fourth, just two more than the six they gave up two nights prior at BYU. Prior to overtime, the Cougs were forced to fight through foul trouble and a hostile crowd just to get to the extra five minutes. For every Cougar run, the Cowgirls were able to answer back, early with three-ball and late with the free throw line.

Up seven and looking like they may run away with the game, the Cougars found themselves on the wrong end of a controversial call that awarded the Cowgirls a finished layup and a foul against the passer that then resulted in bonus free throws and a four-point possession for Wyoming0.

The free throws ignited a string of six-straight free throws for the Cowgirls who ended up hitting 8-of-10 from the line in the third quarter alone as Wyoming took a three-point lead into the fourth.

The fourth would see the two teams continue the battle back and forth with the Cowgirls pushing their lead to as two possessions early in the period while the Cougs would continue to fight their way back. The final tie would come with just 25 seconds remaining in the game when Pavlopoulou drilled a pullup midrange jumper to knot the game at 64-64.

Just like they did in the overtime period, the Cougars locked down on the defensive end for the final possession to force overtime.

Playing their second game at altitude in three days, the Cougs found themselves in a see-saw fight with the Cowgirls early as neither team could shake free from one another.

Early on, the Cougs found their size and athletic advantage neutralized by the Cowgirls who used a pair of 3s and four Cougar turnovers to take three-point lead after the opening 10 minutes. Cleaning up their offense during the break, the Cougs were able to get their running game in gear and find an offensive rhythm.

After trading the lead eight times through the first 16 minutes of the game, the Cougs went on run an 11-5 run to close out the half thanks to seven points from their junior captain Pavlopoulou.

Pavlopoulou would score 10 points in the second quarter alone to finish the half with 12 points while her running mate, Hailey, came up with 10 in the half as well to lead the Cougs to a 37-33 lead at the break.

The Cougars advance to play the winner of the Colorado State-UC Davis matchup which takes place Sunday. If Colorado State wins, the Cougars will hit the road for the third-straight game, Thursday. If UC Davis wins, the Cougars will host Friday.

More information will be available at wsucougars.com.