BYU’s Second Half Surge Proves to be Too Much for Women’s Basketball

suu vs byu

Despite leading at halftime, Southern Utah University women’s basketball ultimately fell to Brigham Young University 84-74 on Friday at the America First Event Center.

In a game played on short notice, the deployment of a halfcourt press previously unused by BYU coach Jeff Judkins sparked a 21-0 run in the second half that put the game out of reach for the T-Birds.

“There was not great organization out on the court,” Sanders said in a press conference postgame. “We needed some people to step up and kind of take charge, and I don’t think we came together as a team. Then we were giving up stuff on the defensive end, and when you’re struggling offensively, you have to put the clamps down on defense and we didn’t do that.”

Liz Graves, who played her freshman season at BYU, finished with a career high 34 points and 10 rebounds against her former school. Her performance lands her in SUU’s history books at sixth place for most points scored in a single contest. 

Graves shot 11-of-17 from the field and made all nine of her free throw attempts.

“I was thinking about BYU while I was warming up, and it put a chip on my shoulder,” Graves said. “I was out for revenge. My husband calls this the revenge tour because I’ve played all the teams in Utah and I know everyone. With BYU, I had to take it to them.”

BYU started the game strong with consecutive open layups at the rim. The Cougs took a 12-6 lead before 6’7” center Sara Hamson went to the bench with her first foul. 

SUU started a 9-2 run in her absence, eventually tying the game at 17 before a layup and free throw by Lauren Gustin gave BYU a 20-17 lead at the end of the first.

SUU’s Darri Frandsen ended the first quarter with 11 points, including one 3-pointer.

Graves tied the game on the first possession of the second quarter with a strong and-1 finish. A few possessions later, she punished BYU’s decision to switch to a 2-3 zone with a 3-pointer that gave the T-Birds their first lead, 23-22.

A couple of steal-and-scores by Shaylee Gonzales kept BYU from falling into too big of a hole, but the T-Birds extended their lead to seven points after a nice finish by Madelyn Eaton as the half wound down.

The T-Birds left Kaylee Smiler open on the last possession of the half, and her 3-point jumper cut the lead to 39-35 at halftime. SUU outscored BYU 22-15 in the second quarter.

Coming out of the break, it seemed as though SUU would crack the game open after the team forced two turnovers and scored two layups on the opening possessions of the half.

Judkins called an emergency timeout a minute into the half with his team facing its largest deficit of the game, 43-35, and from that point on, BYU righted the ship.

The Cougars went on a 13-6 run to pull within one before Judkins implemented the half court press meant to trap ball handlers in the corners near midcourt. On the first possession against the trap, Graves popped open and sank a three to put SUU ahead 52-48 with 3:52 left in the third quarter.

The T-Birds wouldn’t score againl until the 6:19 mark of the fourth quarter. A 3-point jumper by Paisley Harding capped the run, which left SUU in a 17 point hole.

The teams exchanged baskets until another long distance shot by Tahlia White put SUU down 20 with 4:34 left to go in the game.

Graves refused to give in. She led SUU on a 14-0 run over the next three minutes, finishing two and-1 layups and scoring 10 points during the stretch on 4-of-4 FG.

Freshman Kinsley Barrington sank a jumper to cut the lead to two possessions with a little over a minute remaining.

SUU tried to press the inbound pass, but Maria Albiero threw a beautiful lead pass to Harding, who stuck the dagger in SUU by finishing a layup through a foul by Frandsen and making the ensuing free throw.

SUU turned the ball over on their next two possessions, and BYU made their free throws down the stretch to secure the double digit victory.

“I thought in the first half we did a good job of sticking to the game plan: getting them off the 3-point line, taking care of the ball, rebounding,” Sanders said. “In the third quarter they put some pressure on us, started trapping us, and we panicked a little bit… But I was proud of the way [we] finished with the run we made at the end.”

Frandsen finished with 15 points and four rebounds before fouling out of the contest. Cherita Daugherty was the only other T-Bird to finish in double figures with 11 points and seven rebounds, but she also had a season high six turnovers in the contest.

BYU outscored SUU 21-2 in fast break points.

Gonzales led her team with 26 points on 12-of-21 FG while adding five rebounds, four assists and two steals to her stat line. Gustin notched a double-double with 19 points and 13 boards. Harding finished with 15 points, 13 of which came during the second half.

SUU falls to 2-2 on the season with the loss while BYU improves to 4-1 overall. 

The Thunderbirds will be back in action Monday night at 6:30 p.m. when they take on Dixie State University at the America First Events Center. The game will be broadcast on PlutoTV channel 1055.

Story by: Connor Sanders
Photo courtesy of SUU Athletics Strategic Communication