Cougars suffer heartbreaking loss in first round of WBIT

Well, it was a matchup against an old conference foe on Thursday night against the Santa Clara Broncos from the West Coast Conference. The Broncos entered this game 9-1 in their last 10 games with their one loss being a two-point defeat to Portland in the WCC Tournament semifinals.

The Broncos edged out a nail biting 60-59 win at home over the Cougars on Thursday night and here’s how it ended:

With 2:08 remaining, Santa Clara’s Lara Edmanson knocked down a three pointer to go up 56-55.

A costly technical foul on Kaylee Smiler led to a pair of made Bronco free throws to extend their lead to 58-55.

Rose Bubakar then made a clutch three pointer from the corner to tie it and give the Cougars some life with 58 seconds remaining.

A very effective screen then led to a driving layup by Tess Heal to put the Broncos up 60-58 with 4.5 seconds remaining.

On the Cougars’ side of the floor the inbounds pass went to Amari Whiting, whose shot was blocked and then gathered by Lauren Gustin, who was fouled on her putback attempt with 0.4 seconds on the clock.

She swished her first free throw, but missed the second and that’s how the game ended. An excruciating end to BYU’s postseason.

Free throws certainly hurt the Cougars. They were 6 of 16 from the line. Home court advantage certainly could have played a role too. BYU was only 3-11 on the road this season.

Gustin was largely ineffective, finishing the night with a season-low of six points in 38 minutes. This was only Gustin’s second single-digit scoring performance of the year with her first dating all the way back to the very first game of the season against Montana State where she finished with nine points.

Whiting and Smiler stepped up with Whiting scoring 14 and Smiler with 13, respectively.

Interestingly, the Cougars were without sharp shooter and star freshman Kailey Woolston this game. It’s hard not to think that she may have been the difference for the Cougars in Thursday night’s WBIT game as she is good for 13.3 points a night on average.

Woolston suffered a knee injury two weeks ago against Kansas in the 2nd round of the Big 12 Championship. She’ll now turn her attention to preparing to leave on her mission in late May.

“What a really good college basketball game that was. I don’t think we played all that well, but (we) just found a way,” Santa Clara coach Bill Carr said.

“We’re a confident group and a hungry group,” he continued.

Credit: Santa Clara University Athletics

Up next for Santa Clara is a second-round matchup against Washington State, which won its first round game by 20.

BYU’s first season in the Big 12 proved to be a challenging one with the Cougars finishing 6-12 in conference play. However, four of those 12 losses were only by eight points or less including a two-point loss against No. 4 Kansas State.

Next year could be an interesting one with Gustin and Smiler graduating and no longer on the team and Woolston on her mission. Coach Whiting and her staff may need to make a splash in the transfer portal in hopes of finding replacements for these three key players.

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