By Shannon McOmber
The first word and the last basket were all the Cougars needed to triumph — never mind what happened in the middle.
The BYU women’s basketball team were the first ones on the board in what would turn out to be an intense 69-68 overtime win over the University of Northern Iowa Thursday afternoon, Dec. 7, at the Marriott Center.
But after that first field goal, the 5-2 Cougars never saw the lead again until overtime.
The rest of the match-up was a struggle as the Cougars were down by an average of 12 points at any given time in the game, including going into the locker room the first half.
But, in an intense effort to avoid a replay of the shellacking BYU took from Northern Iowa last year, BYU worked its way back into the game point by point.
In fact, the Cougars only led by one point with 18 seconds left to go in the overtime period and allowed the 13 seconds on the shot clock to run out.
Two-and-a-half seconds never seemed so long.
After four timeouts in under three seconds, the teams were back on the floor again with the Panthers in charge of the ball.
But BYU was saved by the bell.
The final buzzer sounded, ending the hard-fought battle and awarding the Cougars the victory.
“The girls showed great heart out there tonight,” BYU coach Trent Shippen said. “We turned on the defense in the second half, and we just kept climbing and climbing.”
And the Cougars climbed from a shooting average of 25 percent in the first half to 60 percent in the second.
“We really struggled in the first half on both defense and offense,” center Caroline Beus said.
“We came out of the locker room going twice as hard at the half and used the defense we should have been playing all along to dig us out of hole we were in.”
Good thing Erin Thorn was there.
The Cougar guard drove relentlessly to the basket in the last few minutes of play, drawing four fouls to keep the Cougars in the game.
“Thorn played smart in driving to the hole — that really helped us out to get her on the free throw line,” Shippen said.
Thorn was the high scorer for the Cougars with a total of 20 points, followed closely by Beus who added 15. Heather Cheesman scored 12 and Stacy Jensen contributed seven — six of which were from the free throw line.
After four games on the road, the Cougars will play at home again Saturday, Dec. 9, against Montana.