PROVO — Sometimes statistics tell most of a story, and that certainly was the case during the BYU women's basketball team's 72-64 loss to Washington State in the first round of the WNIT tournament on Thursday.
Turnovers largely determined the outcome, with the Cougars committing a startling 29 compared to just 13 for the visiting Washington State Cougars.
"Turnovers killed us tonight," BYU senior guard Makenzi Pulsipher said bluntly. "Those little things — they start to add up because (Washington State) is a good team."
BYU turnovers were prevalent throughout, but the home Cougars still managed to lead 41-29 at the half. BYU balanced out its 15 first-half turnovers by shooting 73 percent from the field, shots that were largely open and well-executed.
Things then went south in the second half from the outset.
Washington State began the half with a 15-5 run, trimming BYU's lead to 46-44 around the midway point of the third quarter. The home Cougars then responded with a 10-1 run — topping off the run with consecutive 3-pointers made by Pulsipher and Brenna Chase, but that proved to be the last bit of gas BYU had left in the tank.
WSU went on to outscore BYU 15-6 in the fourth quarter to come away with the win.
"I think we were really flat — maybe more mental than physical," said BYU coach Jeff Judkins of his team's second-half performance. "We just came out and didn't guard them. They came out and scored four lay-ups, and they didn't get that in the first half. I don't know what caused it. It wasn't (my players) not knowing what to do, but just the mental part of it."
BYU's two-star players' numbers reflected the team's overall flatline in the second half. Cassie Broadhead scored 12 points on 5-6 shooting in the first half, before finishing with just 14 points on 5-8 shooting. Kalani Purcell, meanwhile, collected nine rebounds in the first half and dished out six assists, yet finished the game with that same nine rebounds and just seven assists.
"We weren't sharp getting to our spots. We weren't executing the way we need to execute," Judkins said.
Washington State was led by Alexys Swedlund and Caila Hailey, who scored 19 and 17 points, respectively. Hailey's biggest two points came with 1:05 left on a floater in the lane that pushed WSU's lead to 68-62.
BYU's most consistent player on the night was Pulsipher, who led all scorers with 23 points on 9-16 shooting from the field.
"The biggest thing I can say about Makenzi is she plays hard," Judkins said. "She plays tough, she doesn't back down, and does whatever she can do both offensively and defensively. She's had a great career here and she's won a lot of big games. You can't replace a girl like her and everything she brings to the table."
With the loss, BYU ends its season with a 20-12 record. Judkins was reflective in postgame — particularly about his four graduating seniors (Purcell, Pulsipher, Micaelee Orton and Kristine Nielson.)
"Those guys have won a lot of games. Last year and conference championship and this year had a chance to win it again," Judkins said. "Hopefully these seniors come around and aren't strangers. They've been a great example of what BYU basketball is all about."