PALO ALTO, Calif. — With starting center Sara Hamson saddled with early foul trouble, junior Shalae Salmon was called upon earlier than anticipated, holding a particular mindset that ultimately provided big dividends in the Cougars' 73-64 win over Auburn on Saturday.
BYU's inability to bring down defensive rebounds contributed mightily in the Tigers grabbing an early 11-5 lead in Saturday's first-round NCAA tournament game. At one time Auburn led the Cougars in rebounding margin 11-2, with six of the 11 rebounds coming on the offensive end, and BYU coach Jeff Judkins gave Salmon a clear objective to crash the boards.
"I took that to heart," Salmon said, after yielding two offensive rebounds herself early. "I went back in and made sure my eyes were on the board. I didn't care who was in my way. I said, 'Move, I'm getting there.'"
Salmon contributed three defensive rebounds immediately, while holding Auburn to just one shot opportunity and thereby aiding her team taking a 13-11 lead after one quarter.
Altogether Salmon finished with just five points and six rebounds, but proved big in helping her team turn around their focus early.
"Sara gets two fouls and that's what people don't realize. I got a kid who started for two-thirds of the season sitting on the bench," Judkins said of Salmon's play. "She came in and played outstanding."
READY FOR THE PRESS: Many wondered how BYU would handle Auburn's often suffocating press defense heading into Saturday's matchup. But through a lot of practice and confident play from the ball-handlers, the Cougars managed just fine for most of the game. Multiple occasions saw BYU break the press and convert easy layups as a result, although it struggled a lot with it late as Auburn staged a comeback bid.1 comment on this story
"We don't see that, you know, in our league," Judkins said. "To be able to play with those kinds of athletes and it's not just the guards, their bigs are athletic and they can move and trap and it's — it's really hard. ... Hopefully this will get us better for the coming future."
YOUNG IN THE HOUSE: BYU had a relatively strong traveling crew accompany it for Saturday's game, with one fan's presence particularly notable. Former BYU quarterback great and Super Bowl MVP Steve Young attended the Cougars' win, with Cougar players very happy to have his support.
"That was awesome," said BYU guard Shaylee Gonzales about Young being in attendance with the opportunity to briefly meet with him. "I got a lot of pictures with him."