PROVO — The BYU women’s basketball team welcomed Saint Mary’s to the Marriott Center Wednesday afternoon in the third round of the WNIT. BYU and Saint Mary's split two meetings against each other during the regular season, but the Cougars came up short in the third and final meeting.
As a result, their season is now over.
Trailing 55-50, Saint Mary’s closed out the afternoon on a 9-0 run over the final 4:39 to pull out a 59-55 victory over BYU.
“When the game's like this and it’s a close game, you have to do a really good job and not make those mistakes (defensively) when you can’t shoot the ball real well. ... We had a lot of open 3s, especially early in the game. Some nights are like that as a team and you have to be able to win ugly,” said Cougars head coach Jeff Judkins.
“With a five-point lead I thought we had a really good opportunity to win that game. Hopefully we learn from it and some of these young kids learn, because we had three or four games just like that where we didn’t execute, make a play, make a stop — something that can be real positive in a game like that.”
Junior center Jennifer Hamson paced the Cougars with 12 points, 12 rebounds and six blocked shots. But outside of 10 points apiece from junior Kim Beeston and sophomore Xojian Harry, coach Judkins was left looking for someone to step up.
“The team counted too much on Haley (Steed). Haley’s a great player, but you can’t every night count on her to make all the plays. There has to be somebody else who can come in and maybe it’s their night. Tonight wasn’t Haley’s night. She air-balled two shots tonight and I hadn’t seen her do that all year. She was tired. She was worn out. She had to play a lot of minutes and they beat up on her,” Judkins said.
“You can’t have your wings not score, especially when you have an inside presence like we’ve got with Jen (Hamson). (If not) they’ll just pile everybody inside.”
BYU had moments where it looked as if it was about to step on the gas but ended up not being able to push the momentum Judkins was looking for.
“Twice we got up by eight or 10 and then they got right back in the game,” Judkins said. “You don’t do that. When you get somebody down, you bury them. We didn’t do that tonight — not just once but twice.”
Despite all the frustrations, the Cougars were in good position to close out the afternoon with a victory — all the way up until the final five minutes.
“We didn’t score. That’s the biggest problem,” Steed said. “That starts on the defensive end where we gave up a couple of baskets that were too easy for an end-of-the-game stand. All year we’ve said when we aren’t getting defensive stops we aren’t a very good offensive team and I take a lot of the blame for the last five minutes.”
The loss marks the end of the road for one of BYU’s top players in the history of the program. That's a thought that won’t settle in for Steed just yet.
“It’s a little bit surreal right now,” Steed said. “I don’t think it’s really sunk in deep yet. It’s weird running off the court just knowing that it’s for sure the last time walking off the court playing college basketball. Everyone’s career comes to an end at some point and it’s just weird that now it’s my turn.”
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