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Amari Whiting Shines In College Debut To Lift BYU Over Montana State

Nov 7, 2023, 1:59 PM | Updated: Nov 8, 2023, 11:41 am

PROVO, Utah – BYU women’s basketball tipped off the 2023-24 season with a 68-60 road win at Montana State.

It didn’t come easy for BYU as they faced a loud “Kids Day” crowd in Bozeman, with more than 4,000 elementary-aged kids in attendance. The total crowd was 5,017 fans inside “The Brick,” a.k.a. Brick Breeden Fieldhouse.

BYU women’s basketball defeats Montana State 68-60

Luckily for BYU, they had a star freshman rise up to silence the booming crowd.

That freshman was Amari Whiting. The heralded four-star guard flipped her commitment from Oregon to BYU after her mother, Amber Whiting, was hired to become BYU’s head coach, made her impact felt in her college debut.

Whiting scored 18 points, dished out five assists, pulled down seven rebounds, and came away with three steals. She did have seven turnovers in the game, but for a debut, it was quite the performance.

What makes it even more impressive is that she is only one year removed from suffering an ACL injury that caused her to miss her final prep season at Timpview High School.

Amari Whiting led BYU in scoring in her college debut

Whiting’s contributions were critical as Montana State zeroed in on defending Lauren Gustin in the post. The preseason All-Big 12 performer was scoreless in the first half of action. Plus, BYU guard Nani Falatea remains out with an ankle injury. She continues to be day-to-day in her recovery back to the floor. Falatea was an All-WCC performer last season.

With Falatea out, Whiting was teamed up in the backcourt with another freshman, sharpshooter Kailey Woolsten from Lone Peak High School.

BYU started the game slow, trailing the Bobcats 19-8 after the first quarter. The offense was non-existent in the first quarter as they shot 25% from the field and 16% from three-point range and the free throw line.

BYU went into the half down by seven, 32-25, as the Bobcats were shooting 50% from three.

“It’s a kid’s game, so it was loud,” said Amari Whiting to BYU Radio in the postgame. “I think we all just got sped up in the first half. In the second half, we were just kind of able to play our pace and play our game. I think that we knew we could pull out a win, and so we were just like, ‘Alright, let’s turn the corner. We had all of the crap plays in the first half, so, like, let’s just play ball.'”

Second-year head coach Amber Whiting prides her teams on being tough defensively. They showed toughness in the second half, limiting Montana State to only 28 points and only 10 of those points were in the fourth quarter.

Gustin started to come alive in the second half. She finished with nine points and 11 rebounds in the win.

BYU’s offense went cold again to close the game with no field goals in the final 3:45, but it didn’t matter as the defense limited the Bobcats to 18% shooting in the last quarter.

Next up for BYU women’s basketball

The win lifts BYU to 1-0 in its first season as a Big 12 team. Next up for the Cougars is the home opener at the Marriott Center on Friday against Weber State on “Kids Day” at 11 a.m. (MT). The game will air on Big 12 Now on ESPN+.

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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Amari Whiting Shines In College Debut To Lift BYU Over Montana State