LAS VEGAS Jeff Judkins got a technical foul protesting a take-down jump ball call involving his BYU star, Mallary Carling, with just over five minutes to play in Wednesday's first-round 59-41 loss to New Mexico in the Mountain West Women's Tournament.
It may have underscored how frustrating this season was for the coach and the Cougars, who packed their bags for home and ended a 13-16 season with a roster laced with eight freshmen. It is only the second time the BYU women's team failed to advance to the tourney semifinals.
"I'm proud of this team because we've been through a lot this year," said Judkins. "We've lost some close games, and we've played a difficult schedule throughout the year."
The No. 4 Lobos placed three players in double figures, led by a pair of 13-point efforts from Angela Hartill and Amy Beggin. The Cougars, as has been their trademark all year, struggled to score and gave away 25 turnovers tying a season high. That's a turnaround from a year ago when BYU stood among the league leaders in assist-to-turnover ratio.
Carling, who took 18 of BYU's 48 shots, connected on five of them and scored 14 to pace BYU. The fourth-seeded Lobos out-shot the No. 5 Cougars 42 to 33 percent from the field and out-rebounded BYU 35-29 with a 12-6 advantage on the offensive boards.
The Lobos raced to a 21-8 lead in the opening nine minutes and were never seriously in trouble, although BYU nearly cut Lobo leads to single digits in the second half.
Cougar possessions regularly ended in missed shots or turnovers. On the other end, the Lobos canned buckets all game long and simply executed.
Several times, UNM players made 3-point shots with the shot clock winding down, prompting Judkins to shake his head. "I've seen that happen a lot this year," he said.
Judkins sat beside teary-eyed seniors Carling and Lauren Riley-Varley in the media room afterwards.
"I'm sure this isn't the way they wanted to end their senior years. Sometimes, it just doesn't click and things don't go your way," he said.
"These seniors, no matter win or lose, have been classy, respectful of their opponents. They deserved better."
Carling, who played on two MWC championship teams at BYU, said she has no regrets. "This year we struggled a little bit," she admitted.
"But, you know, we felt like we had good successful years here. And we're hoping that we left a good example for the younger kids. We came out and battled and left it all on the court. The ball just didn't roll our way and we didn't get those breaks, but I'm grateful for the time here."
Riley-Varley, the other senior, said this year was a "humbling experience" and left her with lessons she could apply to life."There's been so many times I thought, OK, this is it, it's going to turn around," she said, "and it just never seemed to click for us for some reason. Just a mix of experience and inexperience."
COUGAR NOTES: The 41 points was BYU's lowest-ever in MWC tournament play. The previous low was also to UNM in a 52-46 loss in 2003. The 25 turnovers tied BYU's season high. ... Carling's four treys tied her season high and her 11 attempts from beyond the arc ties for the fourth-most in tournament history.
E-mail: [email protected]