This was by far the best defensive team we've gone against. It was tough; we had a hard time scoring. —BYU coach Jeff Judkins
SALT LAKE CITY ?— BYU women's basketball coach Jeff Judkins called his team's Saturday afternoon matchup with Utah a "Coach Majerus game."
Having worked as an assistant under the late former-Utah men's coach for 10 years, Judkins knows first-hand exactly what a Rick Majerus game should look like: "It was a great game. It kind of suits that this game was an ugly game, like a Coach Majerus game; a defensive battle."
The Utah women honored Majerus with a moment of silence prior to tipoff, and then BYU edged the Utes in a low-scoring affair, 53-48. It was the first loss of the season for Utah (7-1) while BYU improved its record to 5-4.
After trailing by as many as nine points in the second half, Utah took its first lead of the game, 48-46, with 1:56 left when Taryn Wicijowski controlled the offensive rebound on a missed Cheyenne Wilson free throw and hit a 2-point jumper from the top of the key.
On the other end of the floor, 6-foot-7 junior Jennifer Hamson grabbed a key rebound for BYU to set up a 3-pointer by Stephanie Seaborn. The shot gave the lead back to the Cougars, and Haley Steed added cushion with free throws as time wound down.
"I'm really proud of my team and how we competed today," said Utah coach Anthony Levrets. "If you would have told me we were going to hold (BYU) to 34 percent shooting from the field and they were going to score 53 points, I was going to tell you we had a pretty good chance of winning the basketball game."
The Cougars were led throughout the game by the play of Steed, who finished with 22 points, six rebounds and three assists. However, Utah never allowed BYU to pull away.
"Anthony does a great job defensively," Judkins said. "This was by far the best defensive team we've gone against. It was tough; we had a hard time scoring. I thought we did a good job defensively on them. Both teams are very smart, physical, and well-coached. That's probably why this game was the way it turned out."
Both teams were also dealing with possible lineup changes heading into the rivalry matchup. Utah was unsure if Wicijowski would be able to play after severely spraining her ankle on Wednesday; BYU lost sophomore forward Lexi Eaton to a season-ending knee injury on Tuesday; and Hamson was playing with BYU volleyball on Friday before boarding an airplane at 4 a.m. to meet up with the basketball team.
"It was hard," Judkins said of losing Eaton. "I've seen it quite a bit, so when I saw her down grabbing her knee, I knew it was over."
"I was really shocked that she could play," Levrets said of Wicijowski, who recorded her second double-double of the season with 16 points and a career high-tying 15 rebounds. "She's good, she's tough, she's a hockey player playing basketball. I shouldn't have doubted that she was going to play."
Nearly three minutes ticked off the clock before either team found the net. The first was BYU as Kim Parker Beeston hit a 3-pointer, her first of six points in the game. Across the next eight minutes, the Cougars hit two more 3s and pulled ahead by eight points, 13-5, with 9:30 left in the first half while holding Utah to just 14 percent shooting.
"We just didn't knock down shots today," said Levrets, noting that his team entered the game with a shooting percentage of 48.2 but shot just 25.5 percent and made only 3-pointer against the Cougars.
"We are a really good shooting basketball team, and for whetever reason today the ball didn't go in the basket," he continued. "I think a lot of that has to do with BYU's defense, and we missed some open shots that we normally make."
Seaborn finished the game with 12 points and four rebounds while Hamson added five points and five rebounds in just her second game of the season.
For Utah, Michelle Plouffe had 16 points and six rebounds, and Wilson and Iwalani Rodrigues added six points each.
The Utes will be back on the court on Saturday hosting Houston Baptist in a 3 p.m. start. The following Thursday, Dec. 20, Utah will welcome UC Irvine. That game will begin at 7 p.m.
BYU will take on Tulsa on Saturday and UC Santa Barbara the following Tuesday. Both games will be in Provo and have a 2 p.m. tipoff.