SAN ANTONIO (ABC4 Sports) – The BYU women’s basketball team was fortunate just to make the NCAA Tournament. Now, the Cougars want to make a serious run.
Paisley Harding scored 28 points as the 11th-seeded Cougars knocked off 6th-seeded Rutgers in the first upset of the NCAA Tournament, 69-66.
“Today the ball bounced our way, especially at the end,” said BYU head coach Jeff Judkins. “I think that’s what basketball is so much about, especially in the NCAA Tournament. The ball can bounce your way and make some big differences. You probably notice in the whole Tournament, when the top seed has a game close in the end, it’s a lot more pressure on them, more than the underdog and I think that’s what happened a little bit today.”
The Cougars lost a heartbreaker in the West Coast Conference tournament final on March 9, falling 43-42 on a last-second shot to Gonzaga. But Monday, BYU rallied from a 12-point deficit and closed out the Scarlet Knights.
Harding made 8 of 17 shots from the field, including four of nine from three-point range.
“She got to the basket really good for us, caused a lot of problems,” Judkins said about Harding. “She was kinda the person we went to when we needed a basket when it went bad, and she came through she’s just an aggressive tough kid.”
The Cougars made 20 of 23 free throws, and their accuracy at the line was crucial in the closing minutes to secure the victory.
Shaylee Gonzales made 10 of 11 from the line, scoring 17 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals. Lauren Gustin contributed 10 points and 11 rebounds for her 15th double-double of the season. Tegan Graham added nine points, going 3 of 4 from deep.
BYU shot 37% from the field, 39% from 3-point range and 87% from the free throw line to Rutgers’ (14-5, 10-3) 47% from the field, 42% from beyond the arc and 74% from the free throw line. Down seven after three, the Cougars erupted for 26 points in the fourth quarter to seal the game.
“We all just came together as a team, and we told each other that we’re gonna win this game,” Gonzales said. “That we’re not letting back and that we needed to fight. We came together and told ourselves that we needed to pick up our defense.”
BYU will next face 3rd-seeded Arizona in the Round of 32 Wednesday. The Wildcats defeated Stony Brook, 79-44.