NBA 3-pointers, inside presence, a freshman scoring 26 points and a deep bench are only a few words to describe BYU’s womens basketball team. After a week of rest the team is gearing up for its next challenge in the NCAA tournament.
The No. 10 seed Cougars have been practicing and watching film all week in anticipation for this first round game against No. 7 seed DePaul.
“First of all, we’re very excited to be here,” BYU coach Jeff Judkins said during the teams’ pregame news conference. “It’s been a little bit for BYU basketball to get to the NCAA tournament. We’re excited to be here and play against DePaul which is a very good team in a very good conference in the Big East.”
The team’s anticipation has been building as the Cougars have been reviewing film on DePaul.
“Obviously, we’re aware of how good DePaul is,” senior Haley Steed said during the news conference. “They’re very tournament experienced and we’re not. The easiest thing for us is to come out and be confident. More than anything, we just want to focus on how we play.”
With five players being hurt, DePaul has been playing with only seven players this season. The Cougars will have two main women to focus on who cause harm inside.
“I think we focus a lot on our transition game,” senior Dani Peterson said during the news conference. “Our wings can run and our bigs can run. [Kristen] Riley and I have talked about it, that we need to run, because they only have two true bigs right now. If we can get them tired, it will be another advantage for us to get easy baskets in the full-court game.”
DePaul also has a home-court advantage against BYU. The DePaul campus is located in Chicago, the same city where the two teams will face off.
“I’m really excited about it. We have great fan support at McGrath Phillips arena all year,” said DePaul guard Deanna Ortiz said during DePaul’s pregame news conference. “It’s a great way to start the NCAA tournament playing in front of everyone I group up with. I grew up 10 minutes, eight miles away.”
This is the 10th year straight the Blue Demons have gone to the NCAA tournament. Just last year, the team made it to the Sweet 16.
“I’m very, very excited and thrilled for the players that have put us in position in this NCAA tournament here in Chicago,” DePaul coach Doug Bruno said during the news conference. “I really cannot say it enough times how proud I am of this group of seven young women.”
If BYU won a game in the NCAA tournament it would help make a positive shift in the dynamics of women’s basketball, Judkins said.
“I think it will [make a difference] because we need to prove not just to ourselves and other people that we deserve to be here, that we have a great program, and in our coaching career, we‘ve been in postseason 9 of 11 years,” Judkins said. “It’s something we want to continue, to prove to people that we have it. These seniors went through the hardest year I’ve ever coached, and they’ve also had this year, one of the best years. We just want to get the respect that we deserve. The only way you can do that is by performing.”
Riley has eyes on her as she goes into this game. Among all her awards and recognition she also was named February’s top West Coast Conference Women’s basketball player. This followed her garnering player of the month honors in January.
In February alone she recorded five double-doubles and started every game. She averages 13.9 points and 10.3 rebounds, shoots 44 percent from the field, 35 percent from beyond the arc and 75 percent at the free-throw line.
She is BYU’s 22nd player to have 1,000 points in her career.