PROVO The BYU women's basketball team has proved it can stymie even the best Mountain West Conference competition with stifling defense, forcing opponents into long stretches of poor shooting and scoring droughts.
The trouble is, the Cougars have proved an inability to avoid their own long stretches of poor shooting and scoring droughts.
Such was the case Saturday afternoon, as BYU outlasted San Diego State 46-43 behind Mallary Carling's 20 points.
The Cougars (13-11, 7-5 MWC) snapped a two-loss skid with a Marriott Center victory featuring 48 total turnovers and a combined 37-of-109 field-goal shooting for 33.9 percent (BYU at 38.3 and SDSU at 30.6).
While the Cougars' process wasn't pretty, the outcome was welcome.
"The ugliest game in the world," pronounced BYU coach Jeff Judkins, adding after reporters expressed relief the contest didn't go into overtime that "then it would have been even uglier."
Said Carling: "No matter how ugly it was, we pulled it out."
The Cougars can thank Carling, who scored 10 consecutive points for BYU between the 6:41 mark and when there was 1:26 remaining.
"Sometimes at the end of the game, the ball seems to find you, so I just try to take advantage of the opportunities," she said.
Her last two field goals turned a 40-39 BYU deficit into a 43-40 lead with 86 seconds to play. SDSU's Jene Morris canned a trey to tie it at 43-all with 1:04 remaining, with Cougar guard Mindy Nielson driving for a layup and a 45-43 lead with 32 seconds left.
In the final half-minute, BYU still had to survive a SDSU turnover, a Cougar backcourt giveaway, a missed 3-point attempt by Morris sandwiching in Ashley Cheesman's 1-of-2 free throws that made it 46-43 and then a missed Aztec jumper at the buzzer.
Judkins saluted Nielson's game-winning drive, especially since it came after the first-year freshman had coughed up eight turnovers, including several previous touches.
"She had the guts to make the play at the end and make the basket," he said.
The Cougars scored just one basket in the game's opening five-plus minutes and only eight total points in the first nine minutes, trailing by eight and nine points, respectively.
BYU then shut out the Aztec offense for the next five-plus minutes and allowed only four points through the final 11 minutes of the first half.
However, the Cougars couldn't make up the single-digit deficit until 97 seconds before halftime as the two were tied 21-21 at intermission.
BYU again whitewashed SDSU the first six minutes of the second half, but the Cougars mustered only four points early and then went through its own seven-minute drought, finally ended by a Coriann Wood 3-pointer.
Wood, another first-year freshman, was BYU's second-leading scorer with eight points. By shooting 3-of-5 from the field, she was the only player on either team to make at least half of her shots.SDSU (13-12, 4-9 MWC) was led by Morris' 14 points.
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