BYU women’s basketball bounces back, takes down Utah State
Despite leading for all 40 minutes of game action, this game was anything but easy for BYU women’s basketball as it looked to get back into the win column after dropping its previous two games.
BYU returned home to play their in-state rival the Utah State Aggies. In a game that saw 52 combined fouls and 55 combined free throws, the Cougars squeezed out a game where they struggled to find much rhythm for the last three-quarters of the game.
Lauren Gustin had it going early for the Cougars as she scored 10 of the game’s first 14 points battling at the hoop.
The Cougar’s defense was equally as dominant holding the Aggies to 8 points on two field goals during the first period. A stark contrast after giving up 28 and 27 points in back-to-back games against Wyoming and Utah.
The main key to BYU’s fast start?
“Defense, we got back to basics on defense and got back to talking and doing what we needed to,” said coach Whiting.
BYU finished the quarter strong behind back-to-back threes from Emma Calvert and Kailey Woolston. BYU finished the quarter ahead 20-8 but fortunately for Utah State, Gustin was 0-4 from the free throw line in the last minute of the quarter.
Which was just enough of a momentum swing the Aggies needed. The Aggies shot 57 percent from the field in the second quarter and at one point cut the Cougars lead to five at 31-26.
Coach Whiting’s squad was reeling until Amari Whiting’s back-to-back driving layups got BYU back on track. Whiting scored 5 of BYU’s last eight points in the quarter to give her team some breathing room headed into half ahead 39-29.
But the Aggies were not going away. After a quick four points from Gustin to start the half, the Cougars led 45-29. But the Aggie’s leading scorer, Cheyenne Stubbs got going in the third quarter scoring seven of her team-high 21 points. The Aggies cut the Cougar deficit to five going into the fourth quarter with all the momentum.
Utah State had mucked the game up, and it continued to junk the game up in the fourth quarter. There were 52 fouls combined including a little dust-up at the end that ended in multiple technical fouls. Every punch that Utah State through BYU was able to answer and kept the Aggies just far enough away to where they never were in danger of giving up their precious lead.
Much like the first three-quarters of the game, the Cougars found themselves at the line frequently during the fourth quarter. The Cougars shot more free throws than field goals going 11-16 from the free throw line and 5-9 from the field.
“It was a different game today compared to against Utah. Utah was way physical but today not so much,” said coach Whiting.
Kaylee Smiler got things going for the Cougars by hitting their lone 3-point make early in the period.
Amari Whiting was enormous in BYU’s effort to sustain the lead scoring 10 of her 19 points in the fourth quarter. She shot 6-6 from the free line and made the critical free throws needed to give her team a much-needed victory.
The other key number for the Cougars was 14 points off of turnovers in the last period. The Cougars were flying around creating havoc on defense forcing eight turnovers in the fourth quarter alone.
The Cougars showed their IQ down the stretch, at one point Emma Calvert, Gustin, Smiler and Whiting all had four fouls with 3:45 minutes left to go in the game. They played smart defensively and none of Coach Whiting’s players fouled out until the game was out of reach.
Utah State gave a valiant effort in defeat and was very physical with BYU all game long. The key difference for the Cougars was the play of their bigs, Gustin and Calvert.
Gustin added another 20-20 night to her resume, scoring 21 points and grabbing 21 rebounds.
Calvert was a spark off the bench again and her shooting ability allowed her and Gustin to be a dynamic tandem on the floor together.
“Emma’s been amazing coming off the bench for us, and she’s just been in such a good mindset that she gives us that spark off the bench.
They’ve always played really good together, their high-low game finding each other… it’s been really good to see,” said coach Whiting.
Calvert finished the game with 14 points and made seven huge free throws to keep the Cougars afloat during some tough stretches during the middle two quarters. Calvert picked up the slack for Kailey Woolston, who for the first time this season had a game where she shot below 45 percent from the field. It was going to happen at some point for Woolston, who began this season shooting over 60 percent from the field.
Woolston, along with Gustin is now the focal point of BYU’s opponent’s defensive game plans. The freshman guard is going to see a lot of different defenses and it is expected that she will have to go through the growing pains. How quickly Woolston goes through those growing pains will largely determine the success of this BYU team.
With the Big 12 season not far off, Utah State was another tough test to prepare BYU for what is ahead.