BYU falls to Santa Clara 60-59, in first round WBIT thriller

The BYU Cougars were edged out by the fourth-seeded Santa Clara Broncos in a 60-59 thriller in the first round of the WBIT at the Leavey Center, Thursday night.

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The BYU Cougars were edged out by the fourth-seeded Santa Clara Broncos in a 60-59 thriller in the first round of the WBIT at the Leavey Center, Thursday night.

The Cougars and Broncos combined for 12 lead changes and 19 three-pointers that fueled the back-and-forth battle.

Freshman guard Amari Whiting led BYU with 14 points, going 6-for-12 from the floor, and added seven rebounds, two assists and a steal in the loss. Senior guard Kaylee Smiler was the second-leading scorer for the Cougars on the night, finishing with 13 points on 4-of-7 shooting. Smiler, who went 3 for 4 from beyond the arc also tallied three rebounds, three assists, three steals and two emphatic blocks.

Junior guard Lauren Davenport was the third Cougar to finish in double figures with 10 points on 4-of-8 shooting. The junior secured four rebounds and two assists while also contributing a block and a steal.

Despite the loss, BYU outshot Santa Clara, 42-34 percent, from the floor. However, the Cougars struggled from the free-throw line, converting on only 6-of-16 attempts, compared to Santa Clara's 6-of-8. Rebounds were even at 39 apiece, but BYU committed 18 turnovers to Santa Clara's 13. 

First Quarter

Santa Clara quickly jumped out to a 10-1 lead after hitting a 3-pointer with 5:34 left in the opening quarter. Following a timeout, Whiting and Smiler hit back-to-back threes to cut the deficit to three at 10-7 before the Broncos retook a 14-9 lead, which they took to the second period.

Second Quarter

The Broncos opened the quarter with a floater, extending their lead to 16-9 with 8:27 left in the half. Amari Whiting responded with a drive to the basket that resulted in a layup, trimming the seven-point deficit to 16-12. Later, a floater from Whiting brought BYU within two with 4:49 remaining in the half before a Santa Clara 3-pointer put the Broncos ahead 19-14.

Smiler countered with her second 3-pointer before Santa Clara extended its lead to 21-17 with 3:44 remaining in the half. Following a media timeout, Smiler made a layup while being fouled and converted the three-point opportunity, giving BYU its first lead of the game at 22-21 with 2:24 left before the break.

With 1:54 remaining, Davenport sank a left-wing triple to extend the Cougars' lead to 25-21 with 1:54 left in the half before a bucket from the Broncos cut the deficit to 25-23. Davenport quickly responded by going right to the rack and scoring her second bucket of the evening, putting BYU ahead 27-23 with 54 seconds left in the half. The Cougars maintained their four-point advantage heading into the locker room.

Third Quarter

BYU opened the half with back-to-back layups from Amari Whiting, extending its lead to 31-23 leading to a Santa Clara timeout. After the break, Whiting continued the scoring with a floater while drawing a foul, and made the ensuing free throw, pushing the Cougars' lead to nine with just over eight minutes left in the quarter.

After BYU pushed the lead to 10 with 7:27 to go, Santa Clara scored 12-straight points with two triples and three buckets to take their first lead since the 3:14 point of the second quarter. 

The Broncos grabbed a 39-38 lead with 1:25 left before Emma Calvert hit her second three of the quarter to put BYU back in front, 41-39, heading into the final quarter.

Fourth Quarter

The Broncos opened the final frame with a jumper, tying the score at 41-41 before taking a 44-41 lead with a 3-pointer at the 8:44 mark, leading to a BYU timeout.

After the break, Emma Calvert made a layup to cut BYU's deficit to 44-43, followed by baskets from Lauren Gustin and Davenport, pushing the Cougars ahead 47-44. Santa Clara then reclaimed the lead at 50-47 with two 3-pointers, but Smiler tied the game at 50 with a 3-pointer of her own with just under five minutes to go.

The teams exchanged 3-point shots before a Rose Bubakar triple knotted the score at 58 with just under a minute left. Santa Clara moved ahead 60-58 with a layup with just four seconds remaining. In the final moments, Gustin was fouled and made one of two free throws, but BYU fell short as the Broncos secured a 60-59 victory.