By CLAIRISSA PETT
BYU head coach Trent Shippen knew his chances for a victory were slim against a solid ballclub like Hawaii unless the Cougars could improve on several points of their game.
But everything came together for BYU’s women’s basketball team as it easily handled the Rainbows 75-54 for its second-straight conference win Thursday at the Marriott Center.
This particular contest means more for BYU (8-6, 2-0) in the win column. The Rainbows (9-6, 1-2) were picked to finish first in the Pacific division after their 13-1 tear last year, and they’ve been intimidating ever since. Coming off a poor shooting stint and a 71-66 loss to New Mexico, Hawaii was at a slight disadvantage with this being their first road game of the season.
“Our focus for this game was to do a good job finishing off the second half,” Shippen said. “We were able to play with that energy level that we had against Utah. If we can keep playing like that, it will take us a long way.”
And they have come a long way already. The Cougars, who have struggled to maintain a consistent offense this season, were able to fluidly execute for the full 40 minutes. Also, they were finally able to quell their turnover troubles — something that has plagued them for much of the season. They gave up the ball only 18 times compared to Hawaii’s 24.
“We did a good job on pressure defensively. We got some easy baskets on transition and didn’t give up the lead,” Shippen said.
Down 35-28 at the half, Hawaii hit four straight shots to close within two, 46-44. But that would be the closest the Rainbows would come. After that it was all BYU. The Cougars scattered 11 unanswered points in a six-minute span for a 15-point lead with 4:26 remaining, then built an 18-point lead, 68-50, at 2:57 off a pair of free throws from Cady Williams. Four Cougars scored in double digits — Williams (16), Jill Adams (14), Lori Henry-Cuff (12) and Amanda Covington (10).
Covington’s 10 points proved to be a huge offensive presence for the Cougars in the first half. With a 23-17 advantage, she hit two treys in a row at 5:05. An inside layup by Angela Burgess capped an 8-0 run that put BYU on top by 14, 31-17.
“I was getting perfect passes and (they) were getting the open feed to me,” Covington said. “We came in relaxed and confident. We were really prepared. There wasn’t a lull at any point in the game. It was a great team effort.”
The Cougars would only relinquish their lead once in the game on an inside post from Raylene Howard that put Hawaii up 7-6. Keeping Howard in check was a major factor in BYU’s win. Howard, who has been averaging more than 21 points per game, scored 11 points in the first half, but was held to just six in the second.
“There’s no question. That was the key,” Shippen said. “We contained her by not letting her get to the basket. We did a good job defensively. You have to give credit to our girls. (The win) generated a lot of confidence.”
That one layup would be the only damage Howard was able to do and it wasn’t permanent. Covington drained a three just 20 seconds later. From there, BYU outscored the Rainbows 12-3 for an 18-11 lead with 9:38 left in the half as its offense came alive.
“One player can’t keep us from winning,” Adams said. “I said, ‘OK, it’s time for us to get our shots’ and our defense was able to compensate.”