By Jay Zwahlen
LOS ANGELES — One and done.
The BYU women”s basketball joined the men”s team with a loss in the first round of the NCAA Tournament as Louisville routed the Cougars 80-54 on Saturday evening.
The Cougars were behind from the opening tip, and they never recovered.
Big East Player of the Year Angel McCoughtry was simply too much for the Cougars to handle. McCoughtry, the Big East”s scoring, rebounding and steals leader, created her own shot whenever she wanted, paralyzing BYU”s defense.
Cougar forward Shawnee Slade defended McCoughtry the best she could, but McCoughtry”s offensive skill was something Slade hadn”t seen all year.
“[McCoughtry is] a great player,” Slade said. “She”s really athletic and smart. She”s just a great player, and I think we did all we could on her.”
McCoughtry finished with a game-high 24 points.
Louisville came out swinging, jumping to an early 18-6 lead. With only seven minutes having gone by in the first half, BYU had already committed eight turnovers.
“We came out and didn”t expect that kind of strength and athletic ability,” BYU coach Jeff Judkins said. “I think, eventually, we kind of settled down and decided what we needed to do.”
BYU then looked inside to Mountain West Conference Co-Player of the Year Dani Wright and forward Lauren Riley.
The two post players, along with senior guard Jennie Keele, sparked the Cougars to a 10-4 run to bring BYU within six points of the Cardinals.
But a big 3-point play by McCoughtry and solid low-post play from Louisville center Jazz Covington extended the Cardinals” lead to 12 points.
Covington provided the Cardinals with a strong inside presence, ending the half with 10 points and four rebounds.
BYU had 14 first-half turnovers, compared to Louisville”s three. The Cardinals capitalized on the extra possessions, scoring 18 points off turnovers.
The Cougars didn”t have a single player in double figures at the half, but Dani Wright and Lauren Riley combined for 10 points and seven rebounds.
McCoughtry finished the half with 17 points, as Louisville went into the locker room with a comfortable 44-23 lead.
BYU switched up defenses to start the second half in an attempt to put a stop to McCougtry”s offense.
“In the second half, we came out in the diamond-and-one, and they didn”t know what it was,” Judkins said. “They had a very difficult time attacking it, but we didn”t score, and I think that hurt us.”
The “junk” defense,” as Judkins called it, was successful at limiting Louisville”s offense, but the Cougars couldn”t seem to find the hoop in the second half either.
BYU guard Mallary Gillespie, who averaged 13.7 points on the year, was limited to just 3-15 from the field. The Cougars shot only 15 percent from the 3-point line.
Wright led BYU with 12 points and seven rebounds, and Gillespie finished the game with 10 points.
“I think we played a good team today, but as a team, I think we were just too focused on taking that next step,” Louisville coach Tom Collen said.
Judkins said he felt his team was satisfied just reaching the tournament, something he thinks will change if BYU keeps winning MWC titles.
This was the fourth appearance in the NCAA Tournament for BYU in the past six years. In 2002, BYU reached the Sweet 16. Last year, the Cougars made it to the second round.
“They just seemed to be quicker in every situation,” Judkins said. “They just came out with a lot of energy and toughness and took it to us.”