Honolulu, HI -- Jennifer Leitner's season and career high 21 points and 10 rebounds was not quite enough as the Cougar women fell four points short 74-79 to Hawai`i in overtime in a hard fought hoops battle in this year's WNIT, Monday.
The visiting BYU women came out playing solid before a partisan crowd of 3,279 at the Stan Sheriff Center, leading by as many as eight points and forcing 11 Hawai`i turnovers in the first half. The Rainbow Wahine cut the lead to just one-point, 29-28, at the break at the free-throw line from a lopsided 11 fouls against the cougars to five for Hawai`i.
In the second half, it was more competitive basketball where there were at least five ties with no one team enjoying more than a five-point lead. Down the stretch it was a Leitner basket and one of two free-throws from Lisa Osguthorpe with under a minute to play that gave BYU a 58-54 lead. A three-pointer from Hawai`i's Janka Gabrielova, and the Cougar lead is down to one, 58-57 with 40 seconds left in the game. Then a foul charged to BYU's Caroline Beus, her fifth of the night, sent the Rainbow Wahine's Christin Roper to the line for two. Roper makes both and gives Hawai`i a one-point, 59-58 lead as the clock shows four seconds remaining. After a couple of time outs and a foul from Julie Whetten and Hawai`i goes to the line once again where Crystal lee extends her team's lead to three 61-58 with two seconds on the clock. Whetten, the MWC's Newcomer of the Year, takes the ball down the court, stops just behind the three-point arc, shoots the ball and makes the three-pointer as the buzzer sounds, sending the game into overtime tied at 61-61.
Hawai`i got off to a quick start in the overtime period, scoring the first six points for a 67-61 lead with just under three minutes left. They extended the lead to 71-65 with 43 seconds showing on the clock when BYU's Stacy Jensen puts up a three-pointer puts up a three-pointer to cut the lead to 71-68. Four more points from the free-throw line and Hawai`i is up 75-70 with 19 seconds left. All-American Erin Thorn puts in her second three-pointer of the game and the lead is cut to tow, 75-73 with seven seconds to go. Osguthorpe fouls out sending Hawai`i's Gabrielova to the line, giving her team the 77-73 win.
"I was really proud of our kids, they kept hanging in there even when a lot of calls didn't go our way," said Cougar Coach Trent Shippen. "We gave ourselves plenty of chances to win and that's all you can ask as a coach. Our kids kept bouncing back, being resilient."
In the game, thorn scored 16 points and grabbed six rebounds with Osguthorpe picking up 12 points and seven rebounds. The Cougars shot 37 percent from the field and 53 percent at the free-throw line.
For Hawai`i, four players scored in double digits with Gabrielova leading the way with 24 points. Roper followed with 15 points and seven boards. Dainora Puida had a double-double from 13 points and a team high 11 rebounds. Hawai`i shot 49 percent from the field and 81 percent from the free throw line. The Cougars outrebounded the Rainbow Wahine 45 to 35.
BYU's run in the WNIT comes to a close with a final record of 19-13, 8-6. Hawai`i improves to 24-7, 12-4 and will host Oklahoma State on Wednesday night in the round of eight.