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BYU women’s hoops holds on for 72-66 win against Utah State

By Darnell Dickson - | Dec 5, 2023

Courtesy BYU Photo

BYU's Lauren Gustin takes a shot in a women's college basketball game against Utah State in the Marriott Center on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023.

BYU didn’t have a great showing at the free throw line on Tuesday against Utah State, but the Cougars got ’em when they needed ’em.

BYU made 11 of 16 charity tosses in the fourth quarter, including 6 of 8 in the final minute, to hold off a gritty Aggies squad for a 72-66 victory in the Marriott Center.

“We just keep talking about positivity with them,” Cougar head coach Amber Whiting said. “That’s all we do, right? You can talk about the free throws or to reset or refocus but there are a lot of nights where our 3-point percentage is higher than our free throw percentage and tonight it was flipped and that’s a good thing.”

The Cougars were just 21 of 35 (60%) at the line, turned the ball over 20 times and let what was once a 16-point lead dwindle to just three in the fourth quarter, but came out on top to break a two-game losing streak.

“I just think when you get in these (in-state) games, if you let them hang on for a little bit, it become really close and really physical,” Whiting said. “Coaches sometimes try to make it that way and junk it up, but we stood our ground. We had a lot of learning lessons down the stretch with some of our freshmen. They’ll learn and grow and then come January and February those learned lessons will come to fruition.”

Courtesy BYU Photo

BYU freshman Amari Whiting goes up for a shot in a women's college basketball game against Utah State in the Marriott Center on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023.

Lauren Gustin finished with 21 points and 21 rebounds for BYU (7-2), the sixth time in her career the senior has put up at least 20 points and 20 boards in a game. Freshman Amari Whiting had a strong finish with eight points in the fourth quarter, ending up with 19 points. Emma Calvert added 14 points and eight rebounds.

Cheyenne Stubbs was a problem all day long for the Cougars and led Utah State (3-5) with 21 points.

Gustin scored eight of BYU’s first 10 points in what became an early 10-0 lead. Calvert and freshman Kaylie Woolston made back-to-back 3-pointers and a pair of Calvert free throws pushed the Cougars to a 22-8 advantage to open the second quarter.

Utah State, coming off a 21-point home loss to Idaho last week, found an offensive push in the second period and consecutive triples from Ivory Finley and Macy Smith trimmed the deficit to 31-26 with 2:05 to play. A slick offensive rebound off a missed free throw with seven seconds left by Gustin turned into a made jumper by Calvert and BYU led 39-29 at the break.

The Cougars scored the first six points of the third quarter and led 45-29 but the Aggies stayed close with seven points from Stubbs, trailing 50-45 entering the final frame.

Courtesy BYU Photo

BYU's Kailey Woolston dribbles the ball against Utah State during a women's college basketball game at the Marriott Center on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023.

A 3-point play by Finley brought the Aggies to within three, 53-50, with 7:39 remaining. Whiting turned a steal into an assist to Woolston for a layup, then scored on a floater for a 57-50 advantage. Utah State got to within four, 64-60, on a basket from Bridget Mullins with 44.4 seconds to play but the Cougars manage to put the game away at the foul line.

In a messy contest with a combined 52 fouls and 55 free throws, the two teams mixed it up right to the very end where the Aggies were hit with two intentional fouls and BYU’s Kaylee Smiler was assessed a technical foul, all in the final 10 seconds. The Cougars ended up with four players on the floor with four fouls at the final whistle.

Coach Whiting told the media after the game that junior guard Nani Falatea is “stepping away from the program.” Falatea, a double-digit scorer and starter as a sophomore, missed the first five games of the season due to injury and played in the past three contests, averaging 8.7 points per game. She was not with the team or on the bench on Tuesday.

“I’m really proud of the girls,” Coach Whiting said. “They battled through a lot in the last little bit with things on the court and off the court and I’m just proud they stuck together and stuck it out. We got the win.”

The Cougars will host Boise State in the Marriott Center on Saturday at 2 p.m.

Courtesy BYU Photo

BYU's Amari Whiting prepares to make a move in a women's college basketball game against Utah State at the Marriott Center on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 2023.


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