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March 6, 2018

Joe Legerski

Liv Roberts

Natalie Baker

Taylor Rusk

Las Vegas, Nevada

Wyoming - 69, New Mexico - 66

JOE LEGERSKI: All season long this team competes for 40 minutes. One of the things when we were down 15 at half, there didn't seem to be a great deal of panic in the locker room. What we talked about was we needed to become more aggressive, attack the basket. Once again, we just fell back to winning five minutes at a time.

If you look up and you see you're down 15 points, that's a pretty big task against a team as talented as New Mexico and as well as they were playing. We talked about going out, let's win the next five minutes, then the next five minutes. I didn't expect it all to happen in the third quarter.

We talked about being more aggressive to the basket. I thought Taylor Rusk played exceptional tonight. She was the player out there that seemed very calm, got things going, and really went to the basket, had a career high in points, but more importantly showed tremendous leadership.

I thought the seniors took over. For Natalie, Liv, they knew they had to compete. They knew they wanted to continue to play. This is it for them. This time of year, you do fall upon your seniors. I thought they played extremely well.

Down the stretch Natalie made two big free throws where we could always keep it at two possessions. We still had to make another play at the end. We had a hand up, and the ball fell for us.

Tremendous effort by this group.

THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for the student-athletes.

Q. Coach said you weren't panicking in the locker room, but still you're down 15. What was the biggest difference for you to win this game?
LIV ROBERTS: Yeah, the locker room at halftime was kind of interesting. We walked in and no one really said much at first. It wasn't a lot of game talk. Mostly it was talk about how we need to fix ourselves. It's nothing that we were doing on defense, that we were doing on offense. We just needed to calm down. We needed to have a little bit of fire. As Taylor said, we needed to have a little bit of edge.

We talked amongst each other, the seniors, the juniors, Taylor joined in, we just talked about how we want to stay here. We don't want to be on a plane ride home. That sounds terrible right now.

I think that's what we needed. We didn't need to talk about what we needed to go against No. 0, anything like that. The same when Coach Joe came in, talked about wanting to stay here, wanting to compete and wanting to be this group here right now. I think that meant a lot to us. It really hit us hard.

Coming out in the second half, I think you could see that talk helped.

Q. Liv, it's been a while since you played in one of these games. You went out with an ankle injury and hit the and-one bucket. What's going through your mind?
LIV ROBERTS: I just went down with a little ankle sprain. Nothing a little Advil and some tape can't fix. Then as soon as I got the ball, I was like, This is my move, this is what I always do, this is where I'm the best at.

I just knew I had to go up strong. Yeah, I finished. It felt good. Felt good going into the third quarter being ahead after being down by 17. At that point I knew we had it. We were competing at that point. We were playing defense, getting rebounds. We were doing everything that Wyoming does.

Q. Taylor, what was the difference taking advantage in the second?
TAYLOR RUSK: We're a three-point shooting team, so I think we're used to that. When we knew that wasn't going to be there, someone had to step up and start driving to the basket. I was the first one. But everyone followed after me. As a team we all stepped up.

Q. Natalie, you're 8-8 tonight for the free throws. How were you staying calm?
NATALIE BAKER: Yeah, free throws are super important. We've always been a good free-throw shooting team. When I was at the line, I just knew it was going to be easier to make these two than probably get two stops and be down.

It's focus. Being a senior helps with that.

Q. Taylor, the threes weren't there in the first half, but in the second half you hit more. What opened up?
TAYLOR RUSK: Once you start attacking, they had to take that away, too. I think it was good to get to the basket in the second half, then we hit Marta. Once they start collapsing, we can do what we do best, hit some threes.

Q. Taylor, coming off of such a dramatic victory, is it difficult to stay levelheaded going into tomorrow?
TAYLOR RUSK: I don't think so. We're a very levelheaded team. I think, if anything, it gives us some fire and some confidence. It's hard to play the first game here. Obviously it took us a while to get going. I think we just use this, use this fuel for tomorrow night.

Q. Have you ever been a part of a comeback quite that dramatic?
TAYLOR RUSK: A couple times this season we've kept it very interesting. We had a couple regular conference games we came back from, but this was by far the most exciting. This is what it matters. We pulled through.

Q. When you left with the ankle injury, how was the ankle? Was it sore?
LIV ROBERTS: I was just talking to these guys. When I went down, it was more like I felt sick to my stomach, I wanted to puke because that's how I felt after I tore my ACL, a feeling you don't want to have.

I knew it was going to be minor once I got it moving again. I'll be fine for tomorrow night. I'll do some work with our trainer. She's the best in the nation, helped me with my ACL. I'll be good to go tomorrow night. Nothing a little ice and Advil can't do it.

Q. What are the emotions like when you see Liv go down and see her checking back in?
NATALIE BAKER: We were laughing about that, too. We've had sometimes pretty dramatic times where Liv has gone down and we panicked. This time we didn't. It wasn't a worry of ours, we were going to keep playing. I think Taylor being a huge guard for us, that whole game, really stepped up in that moment, too.

Q. Looking at Nevada, what do you need to do tomorrow?
TAYLOR RUSK: It's been a while since we played them. I think we just got to do what we do, play defense, hopefully start the game a little bit better than we did tonight. We got our confidence. Just got to keep doing what we're doing.

THE MODERATOR: We'll dismiss the student-athletes and continue with questions for coach.

Q. Are cold shooting starts like this expected coming in? Something you need to get through?
JOE LEGERSKI: I think it's always difficult. This is our first night playing. There's so much expected of this group. I thought New Mexico's defense was really good. They were there to make sure we did not get our three-point shots.

We talked about the amount of turnovers we had in the first half. We needed to correct that. More importantly, we just talked about driving the ball. That got us back into the game.

I thought two big threes down the stretch, Marta hit one when they went to a zone, then Taylor got one up on top, then we finished it out, closed it with free throws and defense.

To begin with, I thought New Mexico was the aggressor. In the third quarter, I thought we were able to flip that.

Q. This has been a tough tournament for this program, but to get the first one, how can that springboard this team going into tomorrow and beyond?
JOE LEGERSKI: I think the biggest thing is this group has been special all year. To be picked second in the league to begin with, a tremendous amount of pressure was placed upon them. Then we end up having a tough final week of the season when we lose Liv Roberts to illness. She didn't play one of the two games and was still ill in the second game.

But this team just continues to compete. It's a close-knit group. You could see that at the end, how they celebrated the victory. We'll get them home, iced up tonight. It's going to be a late night. Try to get some rest in the morning, play a Nevada team that's really playing well, on a roll.

Nevada, you could see their seniors have also taken over and done some tremendous things. It's just nice to know we can advance. Like Liv says, we're not on a plane ride home tomorrow.

Q. It felt like Taylor was keeping you afloat a little bit. What is it like to see that kind of poise?
JOE LEGERSKI: I told my staff during one media timeout that Taylor was the one playing with the composure. That's what you expect from your seniors. I thought Taylor really carried us in the third quarter. She really stepped up, played with that confidence that she's had all year, had all the starts she does under her belt. She's our second leading scorer. I hardly ever get her out of the game.

You take a look tonight, we played her 39 minutes. She's kind of the glue that holds this group together at times, both offensively and defensively. She just keeps competing.

Q. With Nevada getting the big win tonight over UNLV, what do you have to be ready for tomorrow?
JOE LEGERSKI: I thought it was two emotional wins. Nevada had a great one. We had a big one. It's about now focusing back, coming out to play. I know Nevada, as I said, has been playing very well. We played them in the first two weeks of the season back in January. We'll be up tonight taking a look at everything.

Once again, it's just going to come down to execution offensively, defensively, see how much everybody has to step away from the emotion of tonight and be ready to play again tomorrow. But Nevada is playing extremely well.

Q. There was a stretch in the third quarter where you held them 1-15 from the field. What went better for you in the third quarter defensively?
JOE LEGERSKI: One of the things we talked about was making sure that we had our rotations down. We had some rotation mistakes early in the game. New Mexico took advantage of everything every time we made that mistake. We stayed true to what we were going to do defensively. I thought we improved that way. We placed a little pressure back on them. You could see the confidence starting to roll with us. That was a big part.

Then in the fourth quarter, we made an adjustment to go with two fours, Natalie and Marta, had our fives out of the game. That put two additional scorers on the floor. Natalie did a good job down low defensively. Natalie was able to drive from the perimeter.

Being able to make that adjustment with Baker and Gomez being in the game helped us out.

Q. How rewarding was it to see your team come out with the effort in the second half?
JOE LEGERSKI: I tell you, we talked at halftime about keep competing, let's just get five minutes. When we won the first five-minute segment, you could see the energy coming back to us. When we won the second five minutes, I thought the whole momentum switched.

We had a tremendous amount of Wyoming fans in the building tonight. When they get excited, it felt like a home game. That was a big part of what we were able to do.

I give credit not only to this group up here tonight, this team, but the Wyoming fans that showed up early at this tournament to help this women's program.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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