Cougars win cage fight against Parkway rival

BYU women’s basketball showed up expecting to play a basketball game Tuesday night and ended up in a cage fight against the Utah Valley Wolverines. 

“Utah Valley came to play tonight… they came to play physical, switching up defenses, they had a really good game plan,” said head coach Amber Whiting. 

Both teams were grinding on defense, battling for rebounds and hitting the floor hard in an all-out battle of wills. If you locked a Cougar and a Wolverine into a cage that’s about what it looked like tonight in the Cougars 59-44 win.

This was exactly the type of early season test coach Whiting wanted to see her team play before heading to Hawaii.  

“I felt like my women stayed the course. They stayed calm, they matched the physicality and then some. So I was really really proud of how they played tonight,” said Coach Whiting.

The Cougars two blossoming Amari Whiting and Kailey Woolston were ready for the challenge and then some. Each had a monumental impact on tonight’s game contributing nine and ten rebounds a piece to the Cougars’ 55-27 rebound advantage.

BYU never trailed against UVU but did not establish sizeable until late in the second quarter after back-to-back steals from Amari Whiting pushing their lead to double digits at 30-19. The tenacious Whiting has taken this BYU defense to another level with her ball pressure and knack for stealing the ball.
“I just know that my job when I pick up ball is to stop ball… my whole life I’ve gotten pretty good at just tapping the cookies,”

The Wolverines lost their cookies and could never get back into the game as BYU kept double-digit lead for the rest of the game. Whiting filled up the stat sheet tonight scoring 11 of her 13 points in the first half and finished with nine rebounds, two assists and two steals. 

Whiting was not the only freshman star tonight as Woolston was knockdown again, shooting 4-6 from long distance and 7-11 overall. It could have been an almost perfect performance from Woolston if she had not been the target of an inordinate amount of traveling violations from the referees. 

The referees were letting both teams play tonight except when it came to traveling. Players were getting pushed and grabbed without a call but as soon as one girl dragged their pivot foot an inch the whistle blew and it was going the other way. 

Woolston was the main beneficiary on offense from the attention shown to Lauren Gustin tonight. The freshman guard moved without the ball finding herself open on backdoor cuts and ball reversals off of the Gustin double teams. Almost every made basket was an assisted basket which was the key to opening up the offense for BYU.

“We got Woolston on the baseline being able to run and just be wide open. I think it just opened the game up for us,” said coach Whiting. 

The Wolverines threw everything they could at the Cougars defensively and Gustin was effective against every look. Whether it was a pressure man-to-man defense or a one-three-one trapping defense Gustin made the right decisions all night and finished her night with a team-high six assists with Woolston getting the beneficiary for a majority of them. 

In a game featuring physicality, Gustin was in her element today scoring 13 points on 50% shooting while grabbing 21 boards including 11 offensive. 

Gustin and the other BYU starters carried the Cougars for the majority of the game as Coach Whiting essentially played six players the entire game. Emma Calvert was the lone impactful bench player today and was a force on offense and defense. She blocked four shots and deterred UVU at the rim. Calvert added in nine points and five rebounds to give the Cougars a boost that they sorely needed, due to the lack of depth because of injuries to Nani Falatea and Arielle Mackey-Williams. 

Despite some concern from Coach Whiting post-game about her defense, BYU held UVU to 28% from the field and to 44 points on the game. Both BYU’s defense and offense have flashed what this team is capable of this season and have the chance to turn some noise as they face their first real tests in Hawaii this weekend. They can score, they defend, and they’re tough. In three games they’ve proven that they can win on the road, win a cage fight, and score with anyone in the country. 

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