ANN ARBOR, Mich. (ABC4 Sports) – After earning its highest seed in program history, the BYU women’s basketball team is exiting the NCAA Tournament earlier than expected.
Maddy Siegrist, the second leading scorer in the entire country, poured in 25 points as 11th-seeded Villanova upset #6-seeded BYU in the first round, 61-57.
Paisley Harding led the Cougars with 21 points, but BYU shot just 38.9 percent from the floor and lost for just the fourth time this season.
“We need to give credit to Villanova and their defense,” BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said. “They turned us over and made things hard for us. I am still so proud of this team and how competitive they’ve been all year.”
Tegan Graham had 11 points for BYU, but no other player scored in double figures. West Coast Conference Player of the Year Shaylee Gonzales had eight points on 3 of 14 shooting from the field and committed five turnovers.
Lauren Gustin added eight points and pulled down 13 rebounds for BYU, which ends the season with a record of 26-4.
“I think we came out super aggressive, especially on defense,” Harding said. “We took them out of the things they thought they would be able to get pretty easy, but then I think they turned on the heat. They started pressing a little bit more, getting more in our passing lanes. We just made some careless turnovers, which I think that’s pretty much us just beating ourselves right there in that little stretch in the first quarter.”
After BYU jumped out to an early 13-2 lead, Villanova rallied to get to within one point at halftime, 30-29.
Siegrist scored 19 points in the second half, helping the Wildcats take a 44-41 lead into the fourth quarter. Siegrist added seven rebounds, three assists and two blocks. It was her 21st game scoring at least 20 points this season.
A three-pointer by Graham cut the Villanova lead to 56-55 with 2:19 left. But Siegrist hit a layup on the other end, as the Wildcats never relinquished the lead.
Sara Hamson scored a layup with 26 seconds left to get BYU to within one point again, but Siegrist hit two free give the Wildcats a three-point lead again.
Graham had a chance at a game-tying three-pointer with eight seconds, but her shot was off the mark.
“I mean, we came in knowing she’s their leading scorer, and we were really locked in the first half,” Hamson said about Siegrist. “And then she adjusted. She turned it up a couple notches and really went off. Kudos to her. She played a really great game.”
BYU committed 16 turnovers and made just 6 of 17 shots from beyond the arc.
After losing to Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament championship game, this marks the only time BYU has lost back-to-back games this season.
“I want to thank my team for an incredible season,” Judkins said. “They go 26-4, and to be able to compete at the highest level and be able to hang in there and do the things with up and down parts of life and the season, I’m very proud of them.”