With the final minutes winding down in a home game against Utah State, BYU sophomore guard Kylie Maeda penetrated down the lane and laid the ball off the glass for the basket that finally gave the Cougars a decisive advantage.
It was her only field goal of the game — and she had earned it.
“Throughout the game I’d been trying to facilitate,” she explained. “When the lane opened up, I took it. It felt good (to get the layup).”
Maeda had played a big role in chasing around Aggie senior guard Jennifer Schlott on defense and helping keep the BYU offense on track. Even though Utah State proved to be tough to put away, Maeda and her Cougar companions did enough to get the 84-74 win.
“We were confident,” the sophomore said. “The coaches were telling us to stay calm and the shots would drop. Then at the end we were able to get some breathing room.”
The sophomore said the effort of trying to contain Schlott, who still scored 22 points, was a big challenge.
“She’s a really good player,” Maeda said. “We spent the whole week installing the triangle-and-two defense. We knew if we could limit the points of (Schlott and USU sophomore forward Makenlee Williams), we would win the game because we knew we could score on them.”
BYU senior Kim Beeston said this was the first time she could remember playing the triangle-and-two defense, which has three players in a triangle-shaped zone with the other two playing man defense on the other team’s best players.
“I think it really screwed them up,” she said. “The coaches were great in helping make in-game adjustments.”
Cougar head coach Jeff Judkins said there was plenty of room for improvement in the rarely-used defensive scheme but overall he thought his girls performed well.
“It hurt us early but we had a good second half,” he explained. “We did a good job on Williams but in the first half we didn’t do a good job on Schlott forcing her where she didn’t want to be. She scores in a lot of different ways.”
The game proved to be a repeating cycle. BYU would pull in front by 7, 8 or 9 points, then the Aggies would make a run to close the gap.
Utah State managed to tie the game three times but other than the first basket of the game, couldn’t ever pull in front.
“This felt like all of our other games,” Beeston said. “We’d have spurts where we play great, then we’d have a couple of possessions in a row where we would have defensive lapses. One of our weaknesses is not being consistent through the whole game.”
But Beeston, who drained five 3-pointers on her way to 22 points, and Cougar senior center Jennifer Hamson (24 points and 12 rebounds) provided the offensive punch to keep BYU’s offense rolling.
The home team also got a big boost from junior forward Ashley Garfield, who tallied nine points, seven assists and a game-high 15 rebounds.
“She’s tough, she’s smart, she listens and she knows what her role is,” Judkins said. “She didn’t play much in the Utah game and then came out and had one of her best games. That’s the type of player she is.”
The Cougars had a number of uncharacteristic misses from the foul line, but Judkins said that might partially be attributed to the mental fatigue he could see from his team after wrapping up finals week.
With the win, BYU wraps up its preseason schedule with an excellent 10-1 record. Judkins and the girls also now get to enjoy the holidays and turn their attention to West Coast Conference play.
“This win makes Christmas a lot better,” Judkins said. “We’ve had a good preseason, but now it counts for real.”
The Cougars next host Loyola Marymount in the league opener at 2 p.m. on Dec. 28 at the Marriott Center.
Daily Herald sports editor Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or email@example.com. He can also be followed on Twitter at @JaredrLloyd.