I was in college the last time the Aggies won, so that was a long time ago. But any win for us right now is a good win for us right now. —Utah State coach Jerry Finkbeiner
PROVO — The Utah State women's basketball team overturned a lot of historical frustration with Wednesday's 76-69 win over BYU at the Marriott Center. Not since 1978 had the Aggies taken a win over the Cougars, for starters, with the last win in the Marriott Center dating back to 1974, prior to Wednesday's remarkable win.
“I was in college the last time the Aggies won, so that was a long time ago,” remarked Utah State coach Jerry Finkbeiner. “But any win for us right now is a good win for us right now.”
The Aggies traveled to Provo with just one win under their belt on the 2017 season, against Division II Dixie State back on Nov. 14, but according to players and coaches the signs were there of some notable improvements. Those strides culminated in an impressive performance against a rival which owned a nearly 40-year win streak going in.
Efficient execution on the offensive end highlighted the win, according to Aggie players, who were led by Rachel Brewster and her team-high 20 points. The junior from Melbourne, Australia, was good throughout, but perhaps at her best during the critical final two minutes of the game.
Up big throughout the second half, the Aggies watched the Cougars go on an 8-0 run late to whittle the lead to 65-58 with two minutes remaining. It was then when Brewster ended her team's scoring drought with a jumper just inside the 3-point line.
It was no coincidence Brewster hit what proved to be the biggest shot of the game.
“She’s proven over and over again this year that she’s our leader,” Finkbeiner said. “Rachel’s fun to coach and she wants to win. I feel most comfortable calling plays for Rachel down the stretch.”
As for Brewster, she admitted to some nerves before seeing the ball come out of the bottom of the net.
“It was a little bit scary,” Brewster said. “But I’ve been in a lot of situations in my career where we’ve sort of been in that situation, so I just have to stay focused and I had open shots, so it’s my job to make them.”
A few seconds later Brewster effectively ended all Cougar hopes of a comeback by hitting a 3-pointer with 1:25 left to put the Aggies up 70-58.
Adding to Brewster's total were Olivia West and Shannon Dufficy, who scored 19 and 16 points, respectively. A lot of the points came off of good looks underneath the basket, which was a focus of the team going in.
“We just weren’t getting good ball movement. So we’ve emphasized getting to the basket, kicking out and perimeter movement to get open shots,” Brewster said. “It’s working for us."
A big boost came in the first half, with a late run helping establish a 37-27 lead at the break. The Aggies worked quickly to build that lead in the second and didn't lead by less than 10 until the final five minutes.
The Cougars were led by Cassie Devashrayee, who scored a game-high 23 points. Also playing well off the bench was freshman Paisley Johnson, who scored 14.
“She played hard. I think she probably played the hardest of anybody tonight. She gave us a nice lift,” said BYU coach Jeff Judkins of Johnson.
As for the rest of his team, and its collective effort, Judkins expressed some frustrations.
“Give Utah State a lot of credit. They wanted this game more than us,” Judkins said. “It just didn’t seem like we had the effort, the spark, the energy to come out and play.”
With the win, Utah State improves to 2-6 on the season. Next up for the Aggies is a game at Utah Valley on Saturday. BYU falls to 4-4 with the loss and will work to get back on the winning side when the Cougars host their biggest rival, Utah, also on Saturday (2 p.m.).