(Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
PROVO, Utah—The BYU women’s basketball team held its second-half lead until the last minute of the game, allowing Saint Mary’s to take the 59-55 victory on Wednesday at the Marriott Center and end BYU's run in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
"I thought we just didn’t execute like we needed to down at the end," BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said. "We didn’t run our stuff right and defensively we made some mistakes. When the game is like this and it’s a close game, you just have to do a really good job of not making those mistakes. We didn’t shoot the ball well today. Some days are like that.”
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BYU (23-11) took the 55-50 lead with 4:39 remaining, but didn’t make a single shot in the last four minutes. BYU shot just 33.3 percent in the game to Saint Mary’s 37.3 percent.
Jennifer Hamson led the team with 12 points on 5-of-7 shooting, alongside 12 rebounds for her seventh double-double of the season. Kim Parker Beeston and Xojian Harry were also in double digits with 10 points each. Haley Steed had a team-high nine assists along with her seven points in the game.
Saint Mary’s (23-10) grabbed a basket in each of its first three possessions to go up 6-0 in the first two minutes. BYU couldn’t find the hoop and missed its first six field goals, including four from 3-point range. Harry substituted in at the 17-minute mark and ended the dry spell for the Cougars with a layup to cut the Gael lead to 6-2.
BYU went on another four-minute shooting drought from the 16:35 to the 12:37 mark. It ended on a second-chance opportunity when Steed threaded a pass to Morgan Bailey who was fouled on her way to the basket. On BYU’s next possession, Harry cut the Gael lead in half with a 3-pointer, but Saint Mary’s answered with a jumper to raise its lead to 11-6.
Hamson hit her first points of the game at the 11:37 mark and followed on defense with a block in the paint to shut down the Gael offensive.
BYU held onto its offensive momentum and scored on its next two possessions with another Harry 3-pointer and a Hamson jumper to even the score at 13-13. At the 8:30 mark, BYU responded with an 11-point run, including two-straight layups from Ashley Garfield.
Saint Mary’s came back within one at 19-18, but BYU pushed ahead as Garfield went up strong to the basket and was fouled, giving BYU a 21-18 advantage. With five minutes remaining, Beeston knocked down her first trey of the game to put BYU up 24-18. The score stayed that way until Saint Mary’s hit a layup with 1:43 remaining.
BYU looked to head into the locker room up by six at the half, but two offensive rebounds prolonged the possession for Saint Mary’s and they capitalized with a shot in the paint to put the score at 26-22. In the half, BYU scored 10 of its points on fast break opportunities and 19 of its 26 points were scored off the bench.
Steed hit her first points of the game to give BYU its first field goal of the second half with a 3-pointer from the top of the key. Saint Mary’s answered with a 7-0 run to tie the game up at 29-29. Beeston hit 2 of 2 from the free-throw line to break the tie with 15:13 remaining.
Both teams continued to exchange points until a Beeston 3-pointer sparked a seven-point run for the Cougars. Harry scored on a fast-break feed from Steed and then Steed sunk a short jumper to put BYU up 39-32 with 12:57 remaining.
A good look from Garfield gave BYU some momentum at the 7:50 mark after finding Keilani Unga under the basket. Unga finished at the hoop and earned herself an extra shot to complete the three-point play and put BYU up 47-43.
Fouls riddled BYU and Saint Mary’s in the final six minutes with both teams in the bonus. Two-straight layups from Hamson gave BYU a five-point lead at 55-50, before two foul shots from Saint Mary’s made it a one-possession game with 3:35 remaining. Saint Mary’s scored six more points in the next two minutes to give them the 56-55 lead and a foul from Hamson with 34.3 seconds remaining gave the Gaels two more security points.
One more foul shot solidified the 59-55 victory for Saint Mary's to end BYU's season.
“What do you say about Haley? She’s probably one of the best players to ever play at BYU,” Judkins said. “One of the toughest competitors I’ve ever been around. She can do so many things. She’s a great leader and does all the little things behind the scenes that a coach needs from a player.”
“Keilani has gone through a lot. She never was a great scorer but I thogut her presence was huge for us. She set a great example to these young players of what sacrifice is about. I really thought both seniors were key to our team this year. We wouldn’t have won 23 games without them.”
After trailing the first 10 minutes of play, BYU tied up the game at 13. The Cougars took their first lead on a basket by Morgan Bailey, part of an 11-0 BYU run.
The Cougars held Saint Mary’s to 27 percent shooting in the first half. BYU finished shooting 33.3 percent and SMC shot 37.7 percent.
The BYU bench outscored the Gaels’ 23-2. The Cougars also outscored in the paint 26-18 and had 12 fast-break points. The Gaels didn’t have any fast-break points.
Wednesday afternoon was the 14th game this season that three Cougars have scored in double figures.
Xojian Harry hit double figures on a fast-break play after Steed stole the ball and chucked it down the court to Harry, who laid the ball in. Harry finished with 10 points off the bench
Kim Parker Beeston scored 10 points for the Cougars.
Jennifer Hamson hit her seventh double-double of the season with 12 points and 12 rebounds to lead the Cougars in both categories. She also had a season-high six blocks. In each of the three BYU WNIT games, Hamson had a double-double.
Haley Steed had nine assists and seven points. She also had three steals, to put her at No. 3 in BYU history for career steals with 294. She also became No. 16 in BYU history for career points with 1,290.