The 2001-2002 basketball season was full of excitement as the BYU women's basketball team took on the role of Cinderella to advance farther in the NCAA Tournament than ever before, culminating in a Sweet 16 showdown with perennial powerhouse Tennessee. First year Head Coach Jeff Judkins set the goal of reaching the NCAA Tournament at the beginning of the year but never expected the run the Cougars made this season.
A No. 11 seed, BYU destroyed the No. 6 seed Florida Gators in a 90-52 blowout in the opening round to post their first-ever NCAA Tournament victory. The Cougars continued their run by recovering from a 13-point deficit to stun No. 3 seed Iowa State 75-69 on the Cyclones' home court. Comfortable in the underdog role, BYU led No. 2 seed Tennessee through most of the first half of their Sweet 16 match-up before eventually succumbing to the Volunteers, 57-68.
Winners of eight straight and 14 of its last 16 games before its meeting with Tennessee, BYU's run began at the close of the regular season with victories over Utah at the Marriott Center and SDSU and UNLV on the road. The Cougars finished their Mountain West Conference schedule 10-4, having lost only to Colorado State and New Mexico. The Cougars swept Utah in the 2001-2002 regular season, a feat they haven't accomplished since the 1993 campaign.
After a record-setting defeat of Wyoming in the opening round of the Mountain West Conference Tournament, BYU advanced to the second round for a grudge match against New Mexico. BYU lost the No. 2 seed in the MWC Tournament to New Mexico on tiebreakers but owned the Lobos in their Tournament appearance, defeating them handily by a 13-point margin. The Cougars claimed the MWC Tournament championship after holding MWC Player of the Year Linda Frolich to 11 points and four rebounds to defeat UNLV 61-46 on the Rebels' home court and earn an automatic invitation to the NCAA Tournament.
Their 15-point victory over UNLV was a record-setting performance for the MWC Tournament, as were BYU's 82-points, 23 assists and 12 three-pointers made against Wyoming in the first round. All-American Erin Thorn set individual marks for eight three-pointers made and 13 three-point attempts, both against Wyoming, and for scoring 60 points over the three-game span of the Tournament. Thorn and Junior Jennifer Leitner were rewarded for their tournament play with spots on the MWC All-Tournament Team.
Four Cougars earned All-Conference honors this past season. Thorn was named Mountain West Conference Tournament MVP in addition to being named First Team All-Conference for the second year running. Leitner was named to the All-MWC Second Team while point guard Stacy Jensen and senior transfer Melanie Pearson both earned Third Team honors.
BYU led the Mountain West in almost every statistical category for the 2001-2002 season. The Cougars were first in scoring offense and defense, averaging 68.9 points per game while holding their opponents to 58.0 points per game. They were also first in scoring margin (+8.9), field goal percentage (.429), 3-point field goal percentage (.367), 3-point field goals made (101), assists (219), assist/turnover ratio (1.06) and turnover margin (+2.71).
Thorn was second in the MWC in three-point field goals made with 38 and also finished fourth in assists and scoring, averaging 3.64 assists and 15.4 points per game. Leitner came in second in defensive rebounds and overall rebounding while finishing fifth in offensive rebounds. She averaged 8.9 boards a game, 6.17 defensively and 2.75 offensively. Jensen led the MWC in both assists and assist/turnover ratio, tallying 56 assists and maintaining a 1.93 assist/turnover ratio through the conference schedule. Freshman Danielle Cheesman, who contributed more and more to the Cougars as the season progressed, placed third in shooting percentage, hitting better than 52 percent of her shots.
With games against three of last year's top 25 teams in Oregon, Texas, and Arkansas, BYU faced a grueling out of conference schedule to prepare them for their conference and tournament runs. Although they lost to the Razorbacks and Longhorns, the Cougars pounded the Ducks 74-58 and split games in southern California, beating USC but falling to UCLA. Four of BYU's out of conference opponents were invited to the NCAA Tournament. Two of BYU's non-conference foes, Arkansas and TCU, made it to the second round while one, Texas, was ousted
from the Sweet 16.
Other season highlights include a 94 point performance against Washington State off of 36 field goals, 53 rebounds against SDSU at the Marriott Center and dropping 20 three-pointers on Arkansas Pine-Bluff at the Pioneer Classic. Thorn played a big role in the victory against Arkansas Pine-Bluff, burying nine treys to set a single-game record for both the men's and women's teams.
Jensen tallied 145 assists on the year to finish her career in fourth-place all-time in the BYU record books for assists. Lisa Osguthorpe finished her career having played in 125 games, surpassing a mark set by both Jeanette Weston and Jackie McBride in 1982. The Cougar Club honored both Jensen and Osguthorpe for their achievements this year, giving the Competitor Award to Jensen and the Floyd Johnson Service Award to Osguthorpe.