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Bronco women fall to Wyoming in Vegas

Bronco women fall to Wyoming in Vegas
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LAS VEGAS -- It wasn't the Arena-Auditorium, but it was close enough.

Brown and gold flooded through the doors of the Thomas & Mack Center in waves on Tuesday afternoon, surrounding the edges of the court before the Cowgirls tipped off against Boise State. When the Wyoming band launched into "The Beer Song" minutes before tip-off, it was greeted with a chorus of voices, as fans sung and clapped while the Cowgirls ran through layup lines below.

During the announcement of the starting lineups, Boise State names were met with polite applause, while Wyoming names were dwarfed with an eruption of enthusiasm.

Technically, the hardwood under their feet represented a neutral court. But the bodies surrounding it were anything but neutral.

UW's band has made it to Las Vegas, as has a lot of fans in brown and gold.

“Wyoming fans are great supporters of this program, and to see the number of people in the stands today and just to hear the roar during introductions, I think that really energized this team," Wyoming coach Joe Legerski said. "We just talked about, ‘Give them something to cheer for.’ I think we did that today right through the very end.”

When the game started, the voices rose. Wyoming fouls were argued with ferocity, and the referees were showered with boos as they fled the court at the half. Marquelle Dent's driving layups were met with thunderous applause, a band of loyal Wyomingites saluting their court general.

"Cowboy Ken" was there in all his wonder, a gold barrel hanging from suspenders and covering all the right places.

Cowboy Ken is in the house, barrel and all, and the Cowgirls are back on the court.

If you closed your eyes and listened, it almost sounded like home.

“Coming out for warm-ups and seeing all that gold in the stands is awesome. They really gave us that home atmosphere, and we felt very comfortable playing in front of them," UW senior forward Fallon Lewis said. "It was great.”

In front of 2,462 fans -- most of them covered in Cowgirl brown and gold -- Wyoming defeated Boise State 61-56. In a one-and-done tournament, they moved on, setting up another Border War throwdown against powerhouse Colorado State on Friday.

The support was especially crucial considering Wyoming's record on its home court. The Cowgirls were 12-2 inside the Arena-Auditorium this season, and 4-8 in true road games.

Legerski has said in the past that he has never seen a team as affected by its environment as this one. In friendly seas, the Cowgirls thrive off that support, letting it push them through adversity and eventually to a victory.

On the road, though, that energy is fleeting. Turnovers mount, and the skies darken. Legerski knew all along that the Mountain West Championships wouldn't be played at home.

But if it feels like home, that energy could ultimately make the difference.

“It definitely helps, having that kind of energy," Legerski said. "It makes my team play a step harder than maybe what they want to.

"I know there’s going to be a lot of them here Thursday for the men’s game and again for ours on Friday.”
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