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BYU Women’s Basketball Enters Big 12 With ‘Faith Over Fear’ Mentality

Oct 17, 2023, 5:55 PM | Updated: 7:07 pm

BYU Women's Basketball, Big 12 Media Day, Lauren Gustin...

BYU women's basketball star Lauren Gustin talks to reporters at Big 12 Media Day. (Mitch Harper, KSL Sports)

(Mitch Harper, KSL Sports)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. – BYU Women’s Basketball had a transition year last season.

Amber Whiting, BYU’s head coach, only had head coaching experience from the high school ranks in Idaho before arriving in Provo.

Plus, it was a season that saw BYU close its WCC chapter, with all eyes focused on the future in the Big 12.

So whether BYU is ready or not, that future is now here.

Whiting and her BYU women’s basketball program, after a 16-17 record last season, come into the Big 12 with low outside expectations but are optimistic they can improve from a season ago.

Picked 11th in the preseason Big 12 Coaches Poll, Whiting and BYU players Lauren Gustin, Nani Falataea, and Kaylee Smiler were excited for the opportunity.

A big reason for that optimism is Whiting feeling settled into her role as the head coach at BYU.

“I think last year, I got the job kind of late in the recruiting season, right in May. But I felt like I was drinking from a firehose all year.”

Year two for BYU women’s basketball coach Amber Whiting

It’s a far different tune heading into year two for Whiting.

“I feel like now everything is kind of in place. Everything has been changed how we need to. So now it’s just about the details and bringing in what we see our vision being and my vision being. So my assistants have done a really good job this year of doing that. I just feel like we’ve become better this year and more chemistry, more everything, on the court, off the court. So it’s been really good.”

Will it be good enough in a Big 12 Conference that produced six NCAA Tournament teams and the WNIT Champion a season ago?

That will be determined when league play opens on December 30 at TCU.

BYU will be led by a pair of standout returners

BYU will led by All-American candidate and preseason All-Big 12 forward Lauren Gustin. Gustin led the nation in rebounds a season ago. She’s paired up with All-WCC guard Nani Falatea, who emerged as a star in Whiting’s first season.

By WCC standards, that’s a duo that could be good enough to return to the NCAA Tournament. In the Big 12, it might not be enough to play in the postseason.

“Faith over fear”

Whiting wants to set a mentality for her squad as they enter a significant step up in nightly competition.

“I try to talk to my women all the time about faith over fear. And if we do all the preparation, there should not be any fear,” Whiting said. “You’re just going into the games, going into battle, going to anything in life, and so I try to have that instilled in them. The way they play and carry themselves, I see that a lot more in them.”

BYU women’s basketball on what they want its identity to be in the Big 12

BYU was a solid 60th nationally in field goal percentage shooting 43.5% from the field. But they struggled with possessions as they were near the bottom in turnover margin. BYU ranked 336th out of 348 teams in the country.

From the moment Whiting arrived at BYU, she wanted the identity of her program to be on the defensive end. She doubled down on that on Tuesday on the Big 12 Media Day stage.

“Defense for sure,” said Whiting on what she wants the identity of her team to be in the Big 12. “They laugh (points to players) but that’s where we start. We’re the type of team that are blue-collar kids. They just want to stick their nose in and do the work. So I feel like they’re gonna see us outwork a lot of people because that’s who we are: diving on the floor for balls or doing things.”

Falatea highlights practices have been competitive in the season’s buildup, and defense remains a focus.

“As soon as we go on defense, the energy can’t drop. We can’t lack in focus there; we have to keep the energy high–especially on that end.”

If BYU women’s basketball can maintain that energy on the defensive end, it could be a surprise team in the 14-team Big 12.

They will go in with a “faith over fear” mentality to get it done.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com 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 in the Big 12 Conference on X and Threads: @Mitch_Harper.

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BYU Women’s Basketball Enters Big 12 With ‘Faith Over Fear’ Mentality