Lexi Eaton has made a life in Utah County of getting to the rim and hitting important baskets.
She found herself doing it in overtime Saturday after a miscommunication spoiled an opportunity at the end of regulation.
BYU won, 69-67, after the sophomore made something happen. A two-teammate game near the corner didn't quite work out as the Cougars anticipated. The ball was flicked to her.
"I went for it, and it was there," Eaton said of a running bank shot that slipped through the rim with 23.6 seconds.
Whatever the case, however Eaton made it happen — it was big, because BYU needed it after losing two days prior, and couldn't afford to lose another West Coast Conference game to Saint Mary's.
"I know sometimes you don't play a really crisp game or exciting game, but we knew this game was going to be like this: slugfest. We showed a lot of toughness," BYU coach Jeff Judkins after improving to 13-2 (3-1 WCC) and making some amends for losing a double-overtime game earlier this season at home to Utah.
It was also redemption for Eaton, who looked like she had a chance to end the game without needing five additional minutes put on the Marriott Center clock.
SMC (12-3, 2-2) missed a shot near the rim with about 10 seconds left. The carom afforded Eaton a free run-out. The Cougars' second-best scorer hustled to the 3-point line and, thinking her teammates and coaches were yelling at her to pull the ball out, turned her back on the target.
Eaton appeared to have a fairly free sprint to the rim with a Gaels defender quite likely being in position to do nothing better than foul. Eaton's a solid 80 percent from the line.
The hesitation at least afforded Judkins a timeout with 4.4 seconds left. He set up Eaton again, but she missed a well contested shot at the rim.
"I don't know what I was thinking," said Eaton, able to smile because of the end result.
Judkins heaped praise upon his guard and her decision making — she then quietly said, "thanks, Jud" for the kindness in front of reporters.
Eaton is a a go-getter who has thrived after missing much of last season after injuring an ACL.
She finished with a team-high 19 points.
BYU had to persevere through bigger aggravations than Eaton's one little slip-up. The Cougars had 25 turnovers (13 more than SMC) and that led to 15 fewer shots.
Post players Jennifer Hamson and Morgan Bailey were hammered by foul trouble most of the afternoon. Bailey was taken out of her game (17 minutes, seven points) with a first-half technical foul after arguing another whistle against her, and SMC produced an eight-point lead.
Hamson was taken out of the game in the second half by an inadvertent elbow to the nose when a Gaels shooter tried to draw a foul inside.
Hamson returned, her nostrils stuffed with padding, and scored seven consecutive BYU points from the end of regulation through most of overtime.
Her fast-break layup at 2:20 gave BYU a 65-64 lead (and gave her 15 points and 10 rebounds).
Kylie Maeda (14 points, 4-of-4 from 3-point range) pushed her team's lead to three points with a driving basket, but SMC countered on a 3-point play produced off a missed 3-pointer with 46 seconds left.
The Gaels had a 17-8 advantage on offensive rebounds, making Judkins fume for a split second.
But it set up Eaton to do what she's been doing since her days at Springville High.
"Instead of getting mad at herself, she just came back and let it flow. That's where I think maturity comes in. I'm more proud of that than probably any shot she hits," Judkins said. "She's learned that when things don't always go right, you just bounce back. I'm really happy for that."