PROVO, Utah — In a back-and-forth battle for most of the game, Ball State's shot making down the stretch proved too much for BYU women's basketball to overcome, as it fell to the Cardinals 61-56 at the Marriott Center on Saturday afternoon.
Down nine with just two minutes to play, a 6-0 BYU run made it a three-point game with just under 45 seconds to play, but ultimately couldn't overcome the shot making of Ball State's (4-2, 0-0 MAC) Ally Becki, falling short in the final seconds.
"Shots didn't fall today, and when things aren't going your way shooting percentage-wise, you have to find a way to get to the rim," BYU head coach Amber Whiting said. "That's something we'll be working on next week."
Double-double machine Lauren Gustin led the Cougars (2-5, 0-0 WCC) offensively, recording a game-high 18 points and registering 12 rebounds for her 7th double-double of the season. Kaylee Smiler also kept BYU in the game offensively, pouring in 17 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field, going 2-of-7 from three.
Ball State was led by Becki, who scored a team-high 17 points, going 6-of-13 from the field and 3-of-8 from three.
The first quarter went back-and-forth between the Cougars and the Cardinals. Gustin and Smiler led the way for the Cougars, combining for 12 of the team's 14 points. Both sides of the ball were clicking early for the BYU, as they started the game 4-of-4 from the field. Defensively, the Cougars held Ball State to 1-of-7 from the field while forcing two turnovers to take an 8-3 lead five minutes into the quarter.
After the hot start offensively, the Cougars went cold, missing their next five shot attempts from the field. Three point shooting kept the Cardinals in the game, as they took advantage of the cold streak to go on a quick 7-4 run to cut the Cougar lead to two, 12-10.
Following a pair of free throws by Gustin to bring the score to 14-10, Bolden's layup and Becki's free throws for ball state helped tie the game at 14 to end the first quarter. Gustin paced the Cougars offensively, going 3-of-5 from the field and tallying eight points. The Cougars shot 46 percent from the field as a team, while holding Ball State to 38 percent shooting from the field.
The second quarter featured an offensive shootout between both teams. Hana Mühl's three-pointer for Ball State got the scoring going, taking a 17-14 lead seconds into the period. The Cougars and Cardinals would trade buckets from there, as BYU started the quarter 4-of-5 from the field and Ball State started 3-of-6, with BYU regaining the lead 25-21 following Rose Bubakar's free throws.
After a bucket by Marie Kiefer, Anna Clephane's three pointer from the corner gave Ball State the lead again, 26-25. Amanda Barcello and Smiler's back-to-back threes snapped the Cardinal's 6-0 run, as the Cougars regained the lead, 31-27 with just 2:38 remaining in the period. The Cougars ended the half on a 10-5 run, as they would go into the break with a 35-32 lead.
Gustin and Smiler continued their stellar play for BYU, as they would combine for 21 of the Cougar's 35 first half points. Gustin finished the half with 12 points and 3 rebounds, while Smiler finished with nine points on 4-of-5 shooting.
After a quick four points by Smiler to open the second half, Nani Falatea's assist to Gustin helped the Cougars keep the advantage, leading 40-35 four minutes into the quarter. However, after holding the Cardinal's to just one field goal in the first five minutes, back-to-back threes by Thelma Dis Agustsdottiir and Madelyn Bischoff helped the Cardinals tie things up at 42.
Offensively, the Cougars struggled in the period, going just 4-of-11 from the field for 10 points. Gustin's four points and four rebounds in the quarter helped keep BYU in the game heading into the fourth quarter. Dis Agustsdottiir led the Cardinals off the bench, scoring all eight of her points in the quarter, going 3-of-4 from the field and 2-of-3 from three. The Cardinals took a 48-45 lead into the fourth quarter, as they held the BYU scoreless over the final 3:04 of the period.
After a runner in the lane by Ball State's Becki and a quick miss by the Cougars on the other end, Sydney Bolden's first three of the game gave the Cardinals their largest lead, 53-45. Coming out of the quick BYU timeout, Smiler's big three got the Cougars back on track, breaking their shooting slump to start the quarter.
BYU held the Ball State offense scoreless over the next three minutes, but Becki's three for Ball State kept the Cougars distanced on the scoreboard, as the Cardinals maintained a 56-48 lead.
Smiler continued her clutch play to keep the Cougars in the game, as her bucket cut the Ball State lead to six with under five minutes to play. On the ensuing possession, Ball State's Bischoff hit her third three-pointer of the game, stretching the Cardinal lead to nine with two minutes left.
Facing a seemingly insurmountable lead, the Cougars left everything on the court in the final minutes. After a layup by Barcello cut the Ball State lead to five, the Cougars forced a shot clock violation on the ensuing possession with 45 seconds to play.
Out of the BYU timeout, Falatea's layup and Gustin's first block of the game on the other end brought the Cardinal lead to 3, 59-56. It was too little, too late for the Cougars though, as Becki would ice the game with her layup, resulting in the final score of 61-56 in favor of Ball State.
BYU will next travel to Boise, Idaho to face the Boise State Broncos on Thursday, Dec. 1 at 6:30 p.m. MST. The game will be streamed live on the Mountain West Network.