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BYU Women’s Basketball Looks To ‘Surprise’ During Inaugural Big 12 Season

Dec 29, 2023, 6:16 PM

BYU Women's Basketball, Kailey Woolston, Big 12...

BYU women's basketball freshman guard Kailey Woolston is one of the top players for the Cougars inaugural Big 12 season. (Nate Edwards/BYU Photo)

(Nate Edwards/BYU Photo)

PROVO, Utah – BYU women’s basketball is about to jump into the deep end of competition.

The Cougars are set to tip off their inaugural Big 12 schedule on Saturday when they face No. 23 and undefeated TCU in Ft. Worth.

BYU women’s basketball enters Big 12 play with a 10-3 record

Head coach Amber Whiting has taken strides with the program in year two, guiding them to a 10-3 record in nonconference action. But now it’s time for Big 12 action, where all but one of the 14 teams is in the Top 100 of the NET rankings.

The second lowest-ranked Big 12 team in the NET is BYU at No. 95.

By comparison, BYU’s old league, the WCC, only currently has three teams in the Top 100.

It’s a steep mountain to climb for a young roster. But Whiting and her young squad, led by preseason All-Big 12 forward Lauren Gustin, are not shying away from the challenge.

“Every team that we face is going to be good. There’s no easy games out there,” said coach Amber Whiting. “It’s not like what we’re used to seeing. So, every single game, I feel like we have to go in fighting. As long as they fight and are resilient and have that grit and toughness that they’ve shown in the preseason, I’m OK with whatever happens. But I feel like we’re going to surprise a lot of teams.”

Freshmen backcourt

For BYU to pull off some upsets during league play, they will need to be able to knock down threes consistently. BYU is 12th nationally in three-point percentage, knocking down 38.9% of their threes per game.

Freshman guard Kailey Woolston plays a significant role in that percentage as she is sixth nationally from three. The former Lone Peak star is knocking down 50.7% of her attempts from three.

“I think being able to push the ball is huge for us because we’re a lot smaller than a lot of people,” said Woolston on what it will take to surprise in the Big 12. “So to be able to catch a lot of teams in transition and be able just to work all 40 minutes is super important for us.”

Woolston is a two-time Big 12 Newcomer of the Week this season. She and fellow freshman Amari Whiting have formed quite the tandem in the backcourt to help ease the void left behind by Nani Falatea’s sudden departure from the team earlier this month.

BYU was picked to finish 11th out of 14 teams coming into the year. So, anything above that would definitely fall under the surprise category for a team with such low expectations.

“I feel like these girls have really stepped in and they really want to [surprise],” Whiting said. “So I’m excited about what they can do this upcoming conference season.”

Nationally-ranked Horned Frogs are the Big 12 lid-lifter for BYU

The first challenge is a TCU squad that overhauled its roster through the transfer portal. Arizona transfer guard Madison Conner and 6-foot-7 Oregon transfer Sedona Prince are averaging 20 points per game to lead the Frogs.

BYU forward Lauren Gustin leads the nation in rebounds at 15.5 boards per game.

BYU at No. 23 TCU

Date: Saturday, December 30, 2023

Tip-Off: 3 p.m. (MT)/4 p.m. (CT)

TV: Big 12 Now on ESPN+

Radio: 107.9 FM

Big 12 Women’s Basketball NET Rankings

Entering December 30, 2023

2. Texas

8. Kansas State

10. Baylor

21. TCU

29. West Virginia

43. Kansas

54. Iowa State

55. Texas Tech

65. Oklahoma State

81. UCF

82. Oklahoma

91. Houston

95. BYU

103. Cincinnati

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 Looks To ‘Surprise’ During Inaugural Big 12 Season