Junior Haley Hall led the Cougars with 17 points against TCU, including the final nine BYU points to seal the win. (Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
PROVO -- Playing in front of a home crowd on Senior Day, the BYU women’s basketball team proved its season is far from over, defeating Mountain West Conference Champion TCU, 70-65, on Saturday.
The win gives the Cougars (20-8, 11-5 MWC) a second place finish in the MWC, after being picked to finish sixth in the pre-season, and will be the No. 2 seed heading into next week’s tournament.
“I’m real proud of these guys,” said BYU head coach Jeff Judkins. “We figured out a way to win when TCU came back on us and stuck together as a team, which we’ve done all year. It was a great effort by so many people. We’re getting better as a team, and I like a lot of things we’re doing.”
Junior Haley Hall led the way for BYU with 17 points, including three treys. With TCU threatening at the end of the game, Hall scored the Cougars’ final nine points to secure the win. Other double-digit scorers for BYU included Kristen Riley and Mindy Bonham each with 12 points and Alexis Kaufusi with 10. Riley also posted a double-double on the afternoon with 10 rebounds while Bonham tied her career high with nine assists.
The Cougars struck first with a pair of free throws, but both teams struggled from the field early, going a combined 1-for-8 in the first three minutes. BYU’s tenacious defense caused six early TCU turnovers and allowed the Cougars to open up a 17-7 lead at the 12:48 mark behind six points each from Riley and Bonham.
Missed TCU shots continued to turn into Cougar opportunities as BYU racked up rebounds on both ends of the floor and dictated the pace of the game. Two timely three-pointers kept the Horned Frogs close, but the Cougars continued to push the ball and crash the boards to maintain the advantage. Leading 25-19, BYU’s Jazmine Foreman drained a trey from four feet behind the line to ignite the crowd and force a TCU timeout with 4:01 left in the half. Despite being held scoreless for the remainder of the opening period, BYU still took a 28-23 lead into the locker room.
BYU opened up the second half much as it did in the first, with a 9-3 run to post the team’s largest lead of the game at 37-26. TCU found its offensive footing after calling a timeout with 18:15 left, but the Cougars continued to make shots and hold on to the lead. A spate of TCU free throws looked like the beginning of a comeback until Coriann Wood and Foreman put in back-to-back layups to push the advantage to 50-37 with just over 12 minutes left to play.
From there, the two teams traded buckets until a trey from Wood, who was playing with four fouls, gave BYU a 60-44 lead. However, foul trouble plagued the Cougars down the stretch as the advantage was quickly whittled down to eight points at the free-throw line with under four minutes left in the game. Finally, it was BYU’s turn at the charity stripe as Hall sank two to push the lead back to double-digits at 63-53.
But moments later, a Horned Frog lay in, followed by a TCU trey, cut the advantage in half and had the Cougars on the ropes. TCU continued to score from the free-throw line as BYU struggled from the field until suddenly a game that was once in hand was down to 65-63 with 50 seconds to play. But Hall once again came up big, draining a huge three-pointer as the clock ticked down to 15 seconds. After an uncontested layup on the other end, Hall made two more free throws to put the game away.
As the No. 2 seed, BYU receives a bye into the semifinal round of the MWC Tournament. The Cougars will play their first game in Las Vegas on Friday.
“We’re excited for the tournament and the chance we have to do well and win,” said Judkins. “If we come out and play our game, we can beat anybody.”
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