LAS VEGAS — The BYU women’s basketball team started its West Coast Conference quarterfinal game Friday afternoon against San Diego like a bad country song.
Ill-advised passes. Turnovers. Airballs. A shot-clock violation.
“What are we doing?” coach Jeff Judkins asked himself when his team fell behind 21-3 late in the first quarter. “We’ve got ourselves so far in a hole we might not be able to get out of it.”
But the No. 2 seeded Cougars rallied from that 18-point deficit and outlasted the feisty No. 7 Toreros 75-66 in overtime at Orleans Arena.
“It was really nice to see my team respond,” Judkins said, ”when things weren’t going right.”
BYU chipped away at its deficit gradually throughout the game but near the end of regulation, the Cougars went cold, going nearly four minutes without scoring. BYU trailed 59-56 when the WCC Player of the Year, Cassie Broadhead, knocked down a 3-pointer with 11 seconds remaining that sent the game into overtime.
“They covered me and they left Cassie wide open. She drilled it,” said guard Makenzi Pulsipher. “It’s a shot that she’s taken numerous times this season. I’m totally confident in her ability and I’m really happy she took that because it changed the ball game for us and gave us a second chance. We weren’t ready to go home and we weren’t planning on going home. We’re just glad to have the opportunity to keep going.”
With the win, BYU advanced to Monday’s semifinals, where the Cougars will meet No. 3 seed Saint Mary’s, which downed Santa Clara Thursday night.
Broadhead finished with a game-high 22 points after scoring just three in the first half. Kalani Purcell ended up with 20 points, 16 rebounds, four assists and three blocks for the Cougars. Purcell scored seven straight points in the third quarter to cut BYU’s deficit to single digits.
Broadhead, who underwent surgery this week to fix a tooth that she broke in last Saturday’s Gonzaga game, scored a scoop shot in the lane that gave the Cougars their first lead of the game, 54-53, with 5:17 remaining.
In overtime, BYU took control after baskets by Purcell and Broadhead. With 1:56 left in OT, Pulsipher made her first 3-pointer, in six attempts, to lift the Cougars to a 66-61 advantage.
“We dug a hole and we had to dig ourselves out of it,” said Pulsipher, who scored 16 points on 3 of 11 shooting from the floor and 9 of 14 from the free-throw line. “We adapt to what we need to do to win. We’ve been in that position many times so it was a matter of regrouping and coming together.”
Not long after the opening tipoff, BYU faced a nightmarish scenario. The Cougars had four turnovers in their first handful of possessions and found themselves down 10-0. BYU had seven turnovers in the first quarter against the Toreros (15-15).
“San Diego came out and played hard. We didn’t get a shot the first five minutes of the game. You’ve got to give San Diego tons of credit for their aggressive defense,” Judkins said. “They came out and pressured. We threw it away twice in a row and they got easy baskets. In the first half, they had 19 points off turnovers. In the second half they didn’t have any. What that means is, we’re better off just kicking the ball in the stands and going back and playing defense.”
The Cougars didn’t score their first point until four minutes into the game and by the time they scored their first field goal they were down 12-3.
BYU played better in the second quarter, making 8 of 13 shots from the floor, but USD had a 36-25 lead at halftime.
The Cougars outscored UDS 20-12 in the third quarter and held the Toreros scoreless over the final four minutes of the period. BYU's Kristine Nielson scored all 10 of her points in the first half and helped set up the Cougar comeback.
San Diego’s Aubrey Ward-El finished with a team-high 18 points and Katherine Hamilton chipped in 16. Caroline Buhr had 14 points and 12 rebounds.