PROVO -- In a day full of BYU sports, the BYU women's basketball team was not to be overshadowed, as it pulled out a thrilling 80-77 victory Saturday evening against Oklahoma City University in its regular season opener.
The Cougars led by a narrow 33-31 margin at halftime, but the second half was rife with lead changes. After going back and forth the entire half, BYU fell behind toward the end of the game, and with two minutes left, still trailed by five. Senior forward Alisha Griffeth sank two free throws to pull the Cougars within three with less than two minutes to play.
And then rookie Erin Thorn took over, scoring seven points in the final minute of play. Thorn, the 1999 National Preseason Freshman of the Year selection, hit two off-balance jumpers to give the Cougars a 77-76 edge. With just 12 seconds remaining on the clock, OCU's Mary Ogunsola nailed one of two free throws to knot the score at 77. Not to be outdone, Thorn found the ball and pulled up at the three-point line, where with just one second left, she hit nothing but net to give the Cougars the 80-77 win.
"That's why (Thorn's) been nominated as the preseason national freshman of the year," said BYU head coach Trent Shippen. "It takes a lot of confidence for a freshman to come in and play like that in the clutch."
Thorn started at shooting guard, but later filled in for point guard Stacy Jensen, who was plagued with foul trouble much of the game. Thorn finished with 17 points and six assists in her first official collegiate game.
Senior Cady Williams also played a phenomenal game, scoring 14 in the first half and ending with 23 in the game. Williams also forced a turnover that led to one of Thorn's late-game scores.
Freshman Jennifer Leitner came off the bench to score 10 points for BYU, while senior co-captain Jill Adams was a monster on the boards, collecting 12 rebounds total, 11 of which were defensive grabs.
Center Mary Ogunsola was the leading scorer for OCU, racking up 31 for the Stars.
OCU, the defending NAIA national champion, was dealt its first loss of the season to fall to 3-1 while the Cougars improved to 1-0. BYU will travel to Washington on Tuesday to face the Huskies in its first road game of the season.
"It will be another tough ball game," Shippen said. "We beat them (in Provo) last year, but they went to the NIT last year with us and are picked to finish in the middle of a very good basketball conference."
Tuesday's game will begin at 8 p.m. BYU's next home meeting will be against Gonzaga next Friday.
BYU Set To Open Hoops Season Hosting Oklahoma City University
After two solid victories in exhibition games, head coach Trent Shippen opens his third season with Saturday's (Nov. 20) game against Oklahoma City University. Tip off is scheduled for 4:30 p.m., at the Marriott Center.
Cougars Picked To Finish 4th In First MWC Season
Coaches and Media picked BYU to finish in fourth place in this first season under the new Mountain West Conference.
BYU Probable Starters ('98-99 Stats)
33 Jill Adams - 6-3 F, Sr (10.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg)
35 Cady Williams - 5-11 F, Sr (12.6 ppg, 4.6 rpg)
00 April Hayes - 6-3 C, Jr (4.6 ppg, 2.7 rpg)
22 Stacy Jensen - 5-6 G, So (4.1 ppg, 2.2 rpg)
11 Erin Thorn - 5-10 G, Fr (Orem, UT/Mountain View HS)
BYU Players Off The Bench ('98-99 Stats)
32 Lori Cuff - 6-1 F, Sr (7.2 ppg, 5.4 rpg)
05 Alisha Griffeth - 6-0 F, Sr (6.0 ppg, 1.7 rpg)
04 Renae Hansen - 5-11 G, Sr (7.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg)
31 Lisa Osguthorpe - 6-0 F, So (2.7 ppg, 1.8 rpg)
44 Caroline Beus - 6-1 C, Jr (Kuna, ID/Ricks College)
15 Jorja Cox - 5-11 G, Jr (RS, Othello, WA/Columbia Basin CC)
21 Jennifer Leitner - 6-1 F, Fr (RS/Chico, CA/Pleasant Valley HS)
'98-99 Cougar Highlights
BYU had a perfect 7-0 record at home in WAC games, and went 9-1 in all games.
The Cougars averaged 68.0 points per game, shot .443 from the field and .722 at the free throw line.
BYU's top two leading scorers return for their final season wearing the Cougar Blue. Cady Williams led the team in scoring with 12.6 points and 4.6 rebounds. Teammate Jill Adams followed close behind averaging 10.5 points and led in rebounds with 6.0.
Incoming freshman Erin Thorn from Orem, Utah has been voted the pre-season Freshman Of The Year by the Women's Basketball Writers Association.
BYU vs Oklahoma City University Notes
Oklahoma City University is the defending NAIA National Champions who finished the 1998-99 year with a 28-7, 9-5 record. The Stars are members of the Sooner Athletic Conference who return all five starters. This year OCU is 3-0 with decisive wins. Mary Ogunsola, a senior forward leads her team in scoring averaging 17.0 points and 6.7 rebounds. Newcomer Jhudi Gonzalez, a 5-8 sophomore guard follows with 15.7 points a game and 2.0 rebounds. After three games the Stars are averaging 82 points compared with 44.7 for opponents.
OCU Probable Starters
l 35 Natalie King - 6-0 F, Jr (11.3 ppg, 7.3 rpg)
l 42 Mary Ogunsola - 6-4 F, Sr (17.0 ppg, 6.7 rpg)
l 05 Patty Cantella - 5-6 G, Sr (10.7 ppg, 3.3 rpg)
l 13 Jhudy Gonzalez - 5-9 G, So (15.7 ppg, 2.0 rpg)
l 14 Leslie Norrid - 5-7 G, Jr (9.7 ppg, 1.7 rpg)
Series Against Oklahoma City University
The series: 0-0, this will be the first meeting between these two teams.
Coach Trent Shippen Quotes
(On the Cougars) I thought we had two pretty good exhibition games and we made some good adjustments. We probably played better in our second exhibition game. We're still making some mistakes, but I'm really pleased at our team support and work ethic. Right now we're taking better care of the ball by than at this time last year. We knew we had to play well to be able to beat the two teams.
(On Oklahoma City ) They didn't lose a single starter from their championship team so it's basically their same team. They're going to give us all we want especially with their good size. Because of their size they are a good rebounding team and create a lot of turnovers.
BYU Media Information
At home, the Cougars practice M-W-F from 1 to 3:30 p.m., and from 3:30 to 6:00 p.m., on T-TH. Player and/or coach Shippen interviews may be done in advance by contacting Norma Collett at 801-378-4908 or via e-mail at email@example.com There are no player interviews 24 hours prior to games. All practices are held in the Marriott Center.
Up Next For The Cougars
BYU makes its first road trip of the year taking on Pac-10 foe Washington on Tuesday, Nov. 23 in Seattle. The Cougars then return to host Gonzaga on Friday, Nov. 26 at 7 p.m. in the Marriott Center.