What I think we’ve done better is we’ve made adjustments during timeouts. I think the players have bought into it. —BYU coach Jeff Judkins
PROVO — The BYU women's basketball team has incurred its fair share of frustrating starts to games during non-conference play but proved during Friday's 75-54 win over Montana State an ability to work through it.
The visiting Bobcats got off to a 20-13 lead with 9:27 remaining until halftime, reminding BYU coach Jeff Judkins of similar starts this season — most notably a slow start in a 76-69 Utah State back on December 6. But unlike that frustrating home loss, the Cougars turned things around rather quickly — closing out the first half with a 16-6 run to lead 29-26.
“Today we started off missing easy shots and made some bad mistakes defensively,” Judkins said. “ but what I think we’ve done better is we’ve made adjustments during timeouts I think the players have bought into it.”
The biggest adjustment made was on the defensive side of the ball, with the Cougars amping up the pressure on the Bobcats' guards.
“It was a good call by my assistant coaches,” Judkins said. “They said we needed to pressure, and get into them more, and not really run their offense.”
BYU kept up the pressure in the second half and started out with a quick 7-2 run after the break, pushing the lead to 36-28. From there the Cougars didn't let up and finished the third quarter up 56-39 before rolling the game into what was a relatively easy win.
The defensive pressure applied showed up in the final stats, with the Cougars forcing 22 turnovers and combining for 15 steals while just turning it over eight times themselves. Playing big in the steal category were Malia Nawahine and Cassie Devashrayee, who had five and four steals, respectively. Devashrayee also scored a game-high 17 while Nawahine added 11.
“Malia is one of those kids, that if you look at her stats you really don’t think she’s done as much as she has for you,” Judkins said. “Tonight she had to guard three or four different people, and they’re different players and she’s one who can do it.”
Also playing big for the Cougars was Brenna Chase, who scored 14 points and dished out five assists, with Judkins stating, "Brenna played like normal, and it was good to see her do that."
A lot of the defensive pressure was helped by the presence of 6-foot-7 freshman center Sara Hamson, who is now playing basketball fulltime after transitioning from volleyball. When asked if her presence helped with the overall defensive pressure, both Nawahine and Chase laughed and nodded earnestly during postgame interviews.
With the win, BYU improves to 5-6 on the early season and will now turn to West Coast Conference play and an opening road game against Portland and then Saint Mary's just before the new year. Until then Judkins and his players will take a much-needed rest while enjoying an early Christmas gift with Friday's win.
“It was a good win. It made my Christmas — that’s for sure,” Judkins said. “It’s really hard when you lose a game before Christmas because you have so much time to think about it.”
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