At this point in the season there ought to be some good things happening on the court for the BYU women’s basketball team that look like they were on purpose.
Saturday’s 57-48 loss to Portland – the Cougars’ second defeat in a row at home – was a 40-minute struggle and, at times, painful to watch.
Not for the Pilots, who broke a 20-game losing streak to the Cougars dating back to 2004 despite shooting just 32% from the field. Portland scored 18 points off 18 BYU turnovers and dominated the second and third quarters, outscoring the Cougars 38-16.
After last year’s NCAA Tournament berth and the optimism that comes with having most of the roster returning, BYU’s struggles are a puzzling development.
“Everyone was all going in different directions,” Cougar coach Jeff Judkins said. “Everything was just so hard. When everything is clicking and going, it looks so easy. I just don’t think we came to play tonight. A lot of it is my fault. I didn’t get them ready or prepared or anxious to come and play. Their zone really fouled us up. We couldn’t score and that affects you.”
BYU got off to a good start. Paisley Johnson scored seven points and Sara Hamson blocked five shots in the first five minutes, allowing the Cougars to claim a 13-5 lead and a 13-7 advantage at the end of the first quarter.
“We did a good job in the first quarter moving the ball and getting it where we wanted,” Judkins said. “Then we just stopped doing it.”
The second and third quarters belonged to Portland, which found the range from distance and made three 3-pointers in a 16-3 run. Lauren Walker scored a career-high 12 points in the first half for the Pilots, 10 in the second period, and the visitors led 29-22 at halftime.
Portland outscored BYU 22-9 in the second quarter as Judkins shuffled through is lineup, getting 12 players into the game while searching for a group that would play consistently.
The Pilots continued to dominate in the third quarter, taking off on a 12-3 run to earn a 45-29 lead heading into the fourth period. Through three quarters, Portland had outscored BYU 17-1 on points off turnovers.
The Cougars held the Pilots scoreless for nearly five minutes to start the fourth period as they tried to mount a comeback but managed only four points during that span, missing numerous good looks at the basket. Maria Albiero scored 10 of her 13 points in the fourth quarter but the closest BYU could get was eight points, 48-40, with 2:51 to play.
Freshman Keeley Frawley came off the bench to lead Portland (1-2 WCC, 8-6 overall) with 14 points, including 4-of-6 from the 3-point line. It was the Pilots first win against BYU in 16 tries since the Cougars joined the WCC for the 2011-12 season. Portland’s last win in the series came in 1997.
Johnson topped BYU (2-2, 7-7) with 14 points and eight rebounds. Hamson contributed 11 points, 13 rebounds and seven blocks. Senior guard Brenna Chase Drollinger, the Cougars second-leading scorer, went scoreless in the game, shooting 0-for-10 from the field.
It’s likely there will be some hard conversation between Judkins and his players over the next few days.
Johnson had some suggestions.
“We have to be continually learning the game,” she said. “There are so many opportunities in the game of basketball to attack the advantage. We have a wide variety of advantages. We have size, strength and speed and things other teams don’t have. We need to work together as a team wanting to win instead of wanting to have a career night. Scoring 22 points at the half, that’s not something my basketball team does. I don’t understand what’s happening right now and we’ve got to figure something out.”
BYU is back in the Marriott Center next Saturday to host San Diego.