Cougars’ comeback falls short in first loss of the season

The BYU women’s basketball team suffered its first loss of the season Tuesday at Wyoming.

The Cougars (6-1) dropped a 86-74 decision in Laramie despite an impressive rally late in the game.

After two early 3-point buckets from Wyoming in the fourth quarter, BYU was on the verge of losing their first game of the season, down 61-49 with eight minutes left to play. If BYU was going to get back into the game, it was now or never.

And the Cougars came roaring back.

Emma Calvert and Lauren Gustin spearheaded a 15-2 run for the Cougars taking a 64-63 lead. Calvert started the run with a quick duck-in layup and 3-point shot followed by an Amari Whiting 3-pointer to cut the Cowgirls’ lead to four. Up until that point it had been tough sledding for the Cougars in Laramie.

But finally, for the first time all game BYU had strung together multiple stops and scores to claw their way back into the game.

After two free throws from Wyoming center Allyson Fertig, Gustin answered with a layup of her own. On the next possession, Emma Calvert buried a transition triple to cut the deficit to one.

BYU got another stop on defense and Nani Falatea found Gustin inside for the layup giving BYU its first lead since early in the first quarter.

The Cowgirls, who had dominated the entire game, watched an 11-point fourth-quarter lead evaporate before their eyes. The Cougars looked like they might escape Laramie with a win despite struggling to get stops for the majority of the game.

But, unfortunately for BYU there were still four minutes left in the game and Wyoming was out of gas.

After the Cougars’ seismic run, Wyoming head coach Heather Ezell called a timeout with 4:10 to go and her team never looked back.

The Cowgirls led by McKinley Dickerson went on their own 15-2 run to answer the Cougars. Dickerson, the unlikeliest of heroes, scored nine of her 17 points in the final few minutes of the game.

On the season she was only averaging 4.6 points per game but made two incredibly tough layups and hit a humongous shot to extend the Cowgirl’s lead to three possessions.

The fourth quarter was an epic seesaw with both teams throwing knockout punches. Ultimately, Wyoming closed the game out winning 86-74 and gave BYU head coach Amber Whiting a lot to chew on before her team’s next game against a highly ranked Utah team.

Coming into the game BYU was 33rd in the country in scoring defense holding teams 53.5 points per game. The Cowgirls scored 86 which was 20 points higher than the Cougars’ previous season high of 66.

Wyoming opened the game scoring 28 points in the first quarter on 60 percent shooting and was the aggressor for much of the evening. BYU tried everything they could, throwing different zones and defensive looks at Wyoming all night long. Four players scored in double figures for Wyoming. Malen Pederson led the way with 19 points.

Uncharacteristically for Cougars, it was the Cowgirls who were the more physical team in the first half outrebounding them 18-15, with a 13-2 edge in second-chance points. The Cowgirls scored 30 of their 41 first-half points in the paint and finished the game with a 48-38 advantage in points in the paint and 20-4 in second-chance points.

Meanwhile, for the BYU, Gustin was the only one keeping them close scoring 14 of her game-high 26 points in the first half to lead the way for BYU. For the first time all season, BYU’s opponents decided to play Gustin straight up without sending double team after double team at her. Wyoming bigs Allyson Furtig and Marta Savic held up in single coverage for most of the night and just as importantly, went right at Gustin on the other end. Furtig and Savic combined to score 20 points on 9-12 shooting and were a problem for BYU’s bigs all night long.

Despite Gustin’s prolific offensive night, the strategy worked out for the Cowgirls since they were able to hold the Cougars’ leading scorer Kailey Woolston to zero shot attempts in the first half and eight points overall. Outside of Calvert’s and Whiting’s short offensive spurts in the fourth quarter and the Cougars’ lack of stops, there was no offensive rhythm for BYU most of the night.

BYU shot well from long range, 46 percent on 6-13 shooting but the problem against Wyoming was the shot attempts. BYU was not generating enough open looks from their two best shooters Woolston and Kaylee Smiler to provide the balance that coach Whiting is looking for from her team.

In a game where the Cougars struggled for much of the night, they are going to have to bounce back quickly because it does not get any easier for them.

Up next is a much-anticipated rivalry matchup on Saturday against Alyssa Pili and the Utah Utes in Salt Lake City.

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