We made some stops when we had to and made some baskets when we had to. —BYU coach Jeff Judkins
PROVO — A couple of big defensive plays late proved pivotal in the BYU women's basketball team's 70-66 win over San Francisco Thursday night at the Marriott Center.
Both defensive plays came within the final minute and a half of a tightly contested contest, and both were in the form of blocked shots. The first one was made by the tallest player on the court, 6-foot-7 center Sara Hamson, which didn't come as a big surprise, while the other was made by one of the shortest, 5-9 guard Brenna Chase.
Hamson's came with 1:27 left, with BYU clinging to a 62-61 lead, with the freshman center came across from her defensive assignment to swat away a would-be layup. Hamson's block led to Cassie Devashrayee hitting a big 3-point basket to extend the Cougars' lead to 65-61 with 1:19 left.
“That’s my job. It’s to help out inside and on the bigs. I’m just grateful that Cassie could go and finish that and convert that,” Hamson, who finished with three blocks, nine rebounds and eight points, said. “It’s just kind of what I do.”
Chase's came at the 46-second mark, with San Francisco's Shannon Powell driving for what appeared to be a easy layup, which would have cut the Cougars' lead to two.
“It was probably the play of the game because all of the momentum probably would have swung their way,” Devashrayee said of Chase's block. With BYU coach Jeff Judkins adding, “It was a big play. Those are plays that win games."
Judkins told his team prior to Thursday's game that it may just come down to some key defensive stops and needing to grind out the game's final minutes. Such is the case with several conference games every year, according to Judkins, with the hard-fought win over the Dons proving his case.
“We just seemed a little sluggish tonight. I don’t know the reasons for it, but I’m just happy we pulled it out,” Judkins said. “We made some stops when we had to and made some baskets when we had to.”
A lot of BYU's big baskets came from Utah transfer Malia Nawahine, who tied a career-high with 23 points scored, 18 of which came in the first half.
“I thought she really played well tonight — especially in the first half,” Judkins said. “She really kept us in the game, hit some shots and she just did a real solid job for us. She played one of her best games.”
Devashrayee added 16 on the night, which put her over 1,000 points scored during her BYU career. Only 28 Cougars have done as much in their careers, although the senior guard doing as much has some unique aspects to it.
“It’s really a special deal because a lot of these people that get these points — you look at their career and they started as a freshman,” Judkins said. “Cassie did this in two years which kind of means a lot.”
Devashrayee was quick to deflect any attention to herself, preferring to credit others for the feat.
“A lot of the credit goes to the good teammates I’ve had. If I had crappy teammates I wouldn’t be able to get that,” Devashrayee said. “I’m just happy we won. We need that win so we could go 2-1 in conference (play.)”
With the win, BYU moves to 7-7 on the year and 2-1 in West Coast Conference play. Next up for the Cougars is a home game versus Pacific on Saturday. San Francisco falls to 6-8 and 1-2 in WCC Conference play with the loss.