BYU Women’s Season Comes To Close With WNIT Loss To Rice

Mar 17, 2023, 9:24 PM

BYU Women's Basketball | Amber Whiting...

BYU Women's Basketball coach Amber Whiting talks to the team. (Donovan Kelly/BYU Photo)

(Donovan Kelly/BYU Photo)

PROVO, Utah –  BYU women’s basketball is a wrap for the season. The Cougars lost in the opening round of the WNIT on Friday night to the Rice Owls, 71-67.

BYU star Lauren Gustin finished with 20 points and 19 rebounds, but that wasn’t enough, as four Rice players finished in double-figures scoring.

The Cougars finish the season 16-17 overall as they now set their sights on the Big 12 Conference.

Rice advances in the WNIT and will face the Oregon/North Dakota State winner.

BYU women’s basketball started slow in the first quarter

In the first 2:30 of action, BYU got down 10-0 to Rice. Amber Whiting had to call an early timeout. While Rice got off to that early lead, BYU could only get off two field goal attempts in that stretch.

Kaylee Smiler then ended the drought for BYU getting the Cougars on the board with a three out of the timeout.

BYU cut the lead in half at the next stoppage, which came at the end of the quarter. Rice led 18-13 at the end of the quarter. Smiler led BYU in scoring with five points.

WCC Co-Defensive Player of the Year Lauren Gustin started slow on the offensive end, going 2-of-7 from the field.

BYU shot 20% from three and only 33% from the field. Rice hit 42% of its shots, with Dominique Ennis leading the Owls with five points.

Second Quarter

Rice opened the second quarter in a scoring drought, allowing BYU to cut the deficit to one possession with 6:53 remaining. BYU coach Amber Whiting praised the effort in the huddle for getting back into the game. But she wanted to see more stops on the defensive end.

They got some stops, but two turnovers on back-to-back possessions prevented BYU from tying or taking the lead.

Rice jumped the lead back up to eight after Dominique Ennis buried a three on the wing. Then on the other end, Lauren Gustin was called for an offensive foul. Rice attacked the rim, got an offensive rebound from Shelby Hayes and she put in a layup to put the lead at double digits again.

The Owls closed the half with a three from their leading scorer Ashlee Austin to go into the halftime break with an 11-point lead, 38-27.

Gustin finished the half with 11 points and 10 rebounds, but nothing was coming easy for her. Officials were letting the frontcourt play physically in this game.

Third Quarter

Rice built up a game-high lead of 13 points to open the quarter as BYU’s offense was stuck in neutral as it was to open the game. Then they started to battle back as Arielle Mackey-Williams buried a three.

Nani Falatea cut BYU’s deficit down to five after a missed three that she was able to rebound herself for the lay-in. BYU then got a defensive stop and Falatea was on the attack again. She put up a shot in the paint the went in-and-out but the refs called her for an offensive foul.

BYU got another stop on the defensive end that had the crowd on its feet as momentum was swinging BYU’s way. On BYU’s offensive series, Gustin set a high pick that sent Rice’s Jazzy Owens-Barnett backward. The officials called an offensive foul, BYU’s bench was not happy with the call.

Rice then closed the quarter with a jumper from India Bellamy to keep Rice in front by three possessions, 48-41.

BYU closed the quarter missing eight of their last 10 field goal attempts.

BYU couldn’t get over the hump in the fourth quarter

BYU reserve Rose Bubakar gave momentum back to the Cougars with a three from the top of the arc. But the Owls had a response as they had the entire night. Ennis capitalized on an and-one opportunity to counter Bubakar’s three.

Rice’s Katelyn Crosthwait buried what looked to be a dagger with 6:51 remaining to put the Owls back up by 10 points.

Then BYU roared back again, reeling off a 7-0 run in 90 seconds, causing the Owls to burn a timeout. Ari Mackey-Williams knocked down a three to get BYU within three points.

Whiting, during the timeout, wanted her BYU team to keep running and impose the tempo on Rice.

Coming out of a long timeout due to confusion over the possession arrow, Rice attacked the basket with Bellamy as she drew a third foul on Gustin with an and-one. However, Bellamy missed the free throw to keep the Rice lead at five points.

Nani Falatea hit a three off a Gustin screen to put BYU within two. The closest deficit since it was 2-0 at the 9:14 mark of the first quarter.

Both teams exchanged buckets until Crosthwait hit a wide-open three in the corner to give Rice a cushion of six points with 1:41 remaining.

BYU’s Kaylee Smiler hit a three to get the Cougs back within reach. But they needed another stop. They got it after Gustin pulled down her 19th rebound.

BYU had 18 seconds remaining and a full allotment of three timeouts to work with. Coach Amber Whiting opted to play it out instead of burn a timeout. BYU’s offense got a good three-point look from Mackey-Williams, but it was off the iron. Emma Calvert grabbed the board with nine seconds remaining and no timeout from BYU.

Nani Falatea fired up another three and it was short. Rice came up with the rebound and then called a timeout of their own.

Rice knocked down two free throws with 3.5 seconds remaining. BYU called a timeout and got a quick bucket from Falatea at the hoop with one second remaining to make it 70-67.

Rice knocked down a free throw to close it out, 71-67.

BYU women’s basketball now turns its attention to the off-season.

Miscellaneous notes

  • Longtime BYU women’s basketball PA announcer Jim Davis was on the microphone for the final time on Friday. Davis is retiring to spend more time with his grandchildren after 23 years as the PA announcer for BYU women’s hoops at the Marriott Center.
  • BYU men’s basketball players Noah Waterman and Atiki Ally Atiki were in attendance with the BYU students to support the women. Departing graduate guard Rudi Williams watched the game in one of the tunnels.

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Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU moving to the Big 12 Conference on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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BYU Women’s Season Comes To Close With WNIT Loss To Rice