ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The BYU women's basketball team ramped up the defensive effort to the tune of forcing 25 turnovers to beat No. 17 Florida State 61-54 on Thanksgiving at the St. Pete Showcase.
“The toughness that this team exhibited tonight was special,” assistant coach Lee Cummard said. “The whole team was locked in and made an impact. We have another great opportunity on Saturday.”
Guard Shaylee Gonzales led with five steals and three more players had two apiece as the Cougar defense swarmed and frustrated the ranked Seminoles (4-1) all night.
BYU (6-0) was in control for most of the game, leading by as much as 13 and holding strong when the lead was cut to four points inside of two minutes. The win gives the Cougars its first win over a ranked team this season after a victory over No. 16 Gonzaga last year.
Gonzales also poured in 24 points, going 7 of 16 from the field and 10 of 11 from the free throw line. Point guard Maria Albiero scored 10 points and made two triples while snagging three rebounds, two assists and two steals.
BYU started out with six straight out of the gate before surrendering a 9-0 run to the Seminoles. Albiero drained a trey to even things up at 9-9 with 6:42 remaining in the first quarter.
The teams traded baskets in the first quarter and Tegan Graham found Albiero at the elbow for a midrange jumper to take a 17-16 lead as the first quarter came to an end.
After an offensive rebound, freshman Emma Calvert hit a three from the top of the arc to take a 23-18 with seven minutes left until halftime.
The Cougars had a bit of a drought late in the first half, going nearly five minutes without a field goal. BYU weathered the storm and held onto a 32-28 advantage at the break. Gonzales paced the Cougars with 15 points in the first half while Albiero, Calvert and Paisley Harding chipped in five apiece.
After halftime, BYU stayed in control and Lauren Gustin picked up another two points on a lob pass from Albiero to the inside, making it 41-34 with 4:41 remaining in the third quarter.
The Cougar defense stayed aggressive with Graham blocking FSU’s Sara Bejedi and then on the next possession forcing the Seminoles into a timeout after double in the corner left them with nowhere to go with under four minutes in the third.
With one minute to go in the third quarter, Albiero drove and dished to an open Sara Hamson just outside the restricted area for Hamson to get an easy two to push the lead back to 45-38.
Freshman Nani Falatea hit a three-pointer 30 seconds into the final quarter to give BYU its first double-digit lead at 10 points. A Harding three-point play stretched it to 13 with 7:30 to go.
Florida State cut the lead down to single digits but Albiero answered back with another jumper from the top of the key to stretch it back to 58-47 with 3:23 to go.
The Seminoles wouldn’t go away yet, getting the lead down to 58-54 with under two minutes left in the game. BYU stayed tough and made free throws down the stretch to put the game away, winning 61-54.
The Cougars will play No. 22 West Virginia on Saturday at 1 p.m. EST at the McArthur Center in St. Petersburg, Florida. The game will be streamed on FloHoops.