Cougars come up one basket short, lose in first round of tournament

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CHICAGO — The BYU women’s basketball team fell to DePaul Saturday night in the first round of the NCAA Tournament by a score of 59-55.

It was the first time since 2007 that the BYU women’s basketball had made it to the NCAA Tournament. For DePaul, it was the 10th consecutive year. On Saturday, the less experienced Cougars came up one basket short of moving on.

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BYU forward Kristen Riley (35) shoots over DePaul forward Jasmine Penny (31) during the first half of an NCAA tournament first-round women's college basketball game in Rosemont, Ill., Saturday, March 17, 2012. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
The Cougars showed a lot of heart, making significant runs to get back into the game, but couldn’t convert a 3-point shot on their last possession that would have taken the game into overtime.

“I want to congratulate DePaul,” BYU  coach Jeff Judkins said. “They’re a very good team. They executed very well. They did a great job of switching up defenses on us and slowed us down a bit. I’m also proud of my team. We’ve had a great year. They’ve worked very hard. Everyone gave what it takes for this team to win.”

BYU found itself on the wrong end of a few runs that got the Cougars into a hole offensively. The Blue Demons took a quick 10-1 lead by causing Cougar turnovers and capitalizing on the other end. However, the Cougars made an 18-8 run of their own to take the lead, which they held for the rest of the first half.

“They were playing great defense inside,” senior forward Kristen Riley said. “I wasn’t really happy with how I played, but I think we needed to be a little bit more strong. They put a lot of pressure on Dani (Peterson) and I, but Jen (Hamson) came in and gave us a great lift.”

The second half started off similar to the first, as DePaul went off on an 11-0 run, while holding the Cougars scoreless for the first 6:18 of the second half. Freshman guard Lexi Eaton hit the first shot of the second half for BYU, but the Cougars were already down by 12.

“Sometimes you get a little overwhelmed, a little excited, but we were able to bounce back, tie it up, and even take the lead and keep it close,” sophomore center Jennifer Hamson said. “I was really proud of our team for fighting back.”

Then the Cougars made their last run of the game. Senior guard Haley Steed hit two 3-pointers, Hamson converted on a three-point play, and Lexi Eaton had a steal and a basket to cut the lead to three. Steed had a good look from 3 with four seconds left to potentially send it to overtime but the ball came off the rim, giving DePaul the win.

“The play that Haley had in that last shot was something that we told her to do, and she was ready for it,” Judkins said. “She’s made shots like that all year long. We had our chance and had a good look. I wouldn’t want anybody else to take that shot.”

Junior guard Anna Martin led the Blue Demons with 17 points, while freshman guard Brittany Hrynko had 15. Junior forward Katherine Harry also added 12 points and 9 rebounds.

Hamson and Riley both had double-doubles for the Cougars, with Hamson scoring 21 points and grabbing 11 rebounds and Riley with 10 points and 12 boards.

The Cougars finish the season 26-7, tying the school record for most wins in a single season and will begin preparing for another successful season next year.

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