(Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
PROVO – In a battle to the finish, the BYU women’s basketball team fell to the No. 8 ranked Duke Blue Devils 61-55, Friday night at the Marriott Center before a crowd of 2,553--the largest home crowd since the Cougars played UConn in the 2008-2009 season.
"I’m proud of my team," BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said. "Duke is a very well coached, experienced, athletic team. I thought this year’s team was better than last year’s team. They’re athletic in every position and deep. My team didn’t quit. We’ve really learned as a team what our future is. If we play with that energy and intensity we can beat a lot of people."
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Starters for the Cougars included seniors Dani Peterson, Kristen Riley and Haley Hall Steed along with sophomore Kim Parker and true freshman Lexi Eaton. Early on it was clear that the game was going to be a defensive battle as both teams struggled to find the basket. Parker scored the first points for the Cougars with a 3-pointer at the 17:24 mark. A Peterson layup gave the Cougars their first lead of the game, but the Blue Devils came back on a 3-pointer by Chloe Wells. Through the first half of play the Cougars kept the score close, finishing the half with Duke leading 27-20.
"We had some unforced turnovers at crucial times," Judkins said. "But we had a lot of young kids out there. We’re going to learn from this game as a team. Hopefully we can just get better."
The Cougars came out of the locker room ready to play and went on a 7-0 run ignited by a Steed 3-pointer. The Cougars took the lead for the first time of the second half with another Steed 3-pointer at the 15:38 mark. The teams continued to trade points, but BYU was never able to overcome the deficit despite a valiant offensive effort late in the half. The Cougars scored 13 points in the last five minutes, but lost on fouls in the last minute.
Kim Parker led the BYU effort with a team high 14 points while teammate Steed put in 12 points and a game high 15 rebounds for her second double-double of her career.
The Blue Devils were led by Haley Peters with 11 points and Chelsea Gray with six steals. Gray also had five rebounds to lead the Blue Devils.
Freshman Eaton, who was making her first ever career start chipped in 10 points, two rebounds and two assists. Also of note, the game was the first regular season appearance of junior Alexis Kaufusi after her battle with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma.
Next up for BYU, a road trip to Tulsa to take on the Hurricane Monday at 7 p.m. CST.
BYU outrebounded Duke 41-36 and forced 17 turnovers.
The Cougars held the Blue Devils to 37.9 percent shooting from the field and 28.6 percent from beyond the arc.
Head coach Jeff Judkins is 1-4 when playing Top 10 teams and 9-2 in home openers.
The Cougars had 2,553 fans in attendance Friday night, the highest attendance since the team hosted UCONN in 2008 and the highest attendance for a home opener since the 2003-04 season.
Haley Steed totaled a career-high 15 rebounds, eight in the first half, and accounted for four of the team’s eight steals. With 12 points, Steed recorded her second career double-double. Hall also led the team in assists with five.
Kim Parker put up 14 points on 60 percent shooting to lead the Cougars, also contributing six rebounds.
Lexi Eaton scored 10 points in her BYU debut and was 4-10 from the field.
Xojian Harry scored eight points in the first half in her first regular season game for the Cougars.
Duke head coach Joanne P. McCallie:
They’re movement was excellent offensively. They are very well coached. For the most part they had to work very hard for their shots. The most disappointing thing was our rebounding. To see a guard, No. 33 get 15 rebounds, that’s unheard of, I don’t know how to explain that. That’s an incredible thing; I’ve never seen that before.
We’d like to attack; we’d like to be aggressive. Broken plays are a lot of fun, when we can attack and use them, that’s a very good thing. Offensively we weren’t stellar. We improved in the second half and improved enough to get the job done. This is a great learning film for us. It will be a great teaching film.