By CLAIRISSA PETT
Perhaps the glory from making its first national postseason appearance since 1993 was too bright, causing the fatal “just happy to be here” mentality. Or maybe the seemingly endless road curse struck again.
Whatever the reason, the BYU women’s basketball team fell to the University of Colorado 70-53 in the first round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament on Thursday in Boulder, Colo.
The loss was the Cougars’ last game of the season, as they finished 16-13 overall. But even that was farther than BYU expected to go after falling to conference-winner Southern Methodist in the quarterfinal round of the WAC Tournament last week. The WNIT bid was just icing on the cake for BYU, which produced its second straight winning season under coach Trent Shippen.
“This was more like a gift,” BYU captain Amanda Covington said. “We weren’t sure we’d get the bid … there’s a different atmosphere (in the NIT). It’s a little more fun with not as much pressure.”
Even if the pressure was turned down, BYU never appeared lax at any point in the game. The Cougars didn’t let the 9th-ranked Big 12 team run away with the game until late in the second half.
“This is the next step in becoming the tough program we want to be … I feel we’re in a situation where we can contend for a conference title again next year.”
— BYU head coach Trent Shippen
Tied at 46 with 10 minutes remaining, the Buffaloes (15-13) went on a 21-5 run over the next eight minutes. The scoring tear was sparked by freshman Mandy Nightengale, who single-handedly provided the Colorado momentum shifter.
After a three-point shot by Covington from the left baseline, Nightengale pumped in a three of her own, followed by a pair of long two-point shots.
“That was a big play right there,” Shippen said. “Nightengale really shot it well. (Colorado’s) great execution was a credit to them.”
Aside from Nightengale’s 14 points off the bench, there were points that left BYU scratching its head with confusion. The Cougars snuffed the Buffaloes’ biggest scoring threat, Linda Lappe, by holding her to a mere eight points.
But the difference came not from BYU’s defensive side but its offensive side.
BYU had a chance to come back with five minutes remaining after forward Jill Adams knocked in an inside shot to bring the Cougars within eight, 59-51. But Adams’ shot was the last of the night as BYU was held scoreless for the remainder of the game.
The Cougars shot 24 percent from the field in the second half and finished the game at 32 percent, while Colorado hit 46 percent of its shots. Adams, who was on fire in the first half with 10 points, was silent in the second half to end with 14 points and eight rebounds. BYU’s usual leading scorer, Cady Williams, shot 1-7 from the field and was held to five points in 31 minutes of action.
Lori Henry-Cuff and Covington each chipped in eight points apiece.
“It really came down to shooting percentage,” Shippen said. “We had a lot of chances, but our shots didn’t fall.”
Although the Cougars are done for now, Shippen is optimistic about the future and feels the WNIT bid is a sign of good things to come.
“This is the next step in becoming the tough program we want to be,” he said. “We’ll try and build on this. I feel we’re in a situation where we can contend for a conference title again next year.”