Cougars beat Auburn, advance in NCAA Tournament

March 24, 2019
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BYU celebrates during the first half of a first-round game against Auburn in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament in Stanford, Calif. Saturday, March 23, 2019. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

STANFORD, Calif. — Winning in the NCAA Tournament is about “playing your game,” or so the players will tell you.

It took the BYU women’s basketball a team a half to do that in Saturday’s first round match-up with Auburn but when the Cougars found their gear, the Tigers were in trouble.

No. 7 seed BYU outscored tenth-seeded Auburn 23-13 in a blistering third quarter and after a few March Madness moments in the fourth, pulled away for a 73-64 win at Maples Pavilion.

“You know, it’s just been one of those years with these guys and they have made it exciting. Of course, they had to do it today,” BYU coach Jeff Judkins said. “That’s why I don’t have any hair, because of what those guys do.

“I’m so happy for them because they could have gotten down and upset with each other, but they didn’t. They bounced back and that’s what they’ve done all year.”

It’s the first NCAA Tournament win for the program since the 2013-14 season. The Cougars (26-6) advance to play in the second round on Monday against host Stanford (29-4), which dispatched UC Davis 79-54.

BYU junior Brenna Chase put up a great line on Saturday with 19 points, seven assists and three blocks in her first NCAA Tournament game.

“It means a lot to me right now,” Chase said. “It means a lot to my team. I’m a junior and I’m getting old with just one year left. I want to go as far as I can in this tournament and do everything in my power to get us there.”

Freshman Shaylee Gonzales had 17 points and nine rebounds and Caitlyn Alldredge scored a career-high 14 points. All three keyed the huge third quarter burst that put BYU in control.

BYU led by two, 28-26, at halftime but an 11-1 run in the third got the Cougars rolling. Alldredge had a 3-pointer and a layup in that run as BYU found holes to exploit in the Auburn defense.

“We executed 100 percent and we ran plays that he (Judkins) drew up,” Alldredge said. “We started pushing against the press and finding the gaps. I think we talked a lot (at halftime) about not fouling, rebounding and getting back in transition. We had been able to break their press but once we finally got the boards on the defensive end we were able to push the ball more. We got a lot of looks in transition in the third quarter.”

Alldredge finished with seven points in the third quarter, Gonzales had six and Chase dished our four assists as BYU took a 51-39 lead heading into the fourth.

The lead reached 15, 56-41, when Paisley Johnson buried a straight-on 3-pointer at the 8:24 mark. But Auburn’s press – which the Cougars had handled easily through three quarters – became effective as the Tigers started to play with the desperation of a team not wanting to be a ‘one and done.’

A layup by Crystal Primm cut the BYU advantage to just five, 64-59, with 2:21 to play and Primm’s rebound basket trimmed the lead to 65-61 with 1:57 remaining. The Cougars got a key drive and finish from Gonzales and made 6 of 8 free throws down the stretch to preserve the win.

Senior guard Janiah McKay led Auburn (23-10) with 19 points and Unique Thompson added 10 points and 19 rebounds.