Cougars survive OT to top UC Riverside in opener
As a warm-up to the main event — the BYU-Utah Valley men’s basketball game — the BYU women’s matchup with UC Riverside had plenty of drama.
A big basket by Paisley Johnson tied the game in regulation and the Cougars held on in overtime for a 72-70 win in their season opener on Friday at the Marriott Center.
“I thought Riverside played really well tonight,” BYU coach Jeff Judkins said. “They shot the lights out and they don’t normally shoot like that. We did a really good job of hanging in there.”
BYU (1-0) trailed 63-59 with 3:18 to play but Brenna Chase made a 3-pointer, then freshman Shaylee Gonzales stole the ball and Johnson ended up with a layup to give the Cougars a 64-63 lead with 1:55 remaining. UC Riverside surged to a 66-64 lead on a 3-pointer by Malou De Kergret with 38.1 seconds to play. The Cougars got the ball to Chase, who missed a 3-pointer but Gonzales knifed in for the offensive rebound. Johnson made the play of the game with a hard-driving layup to tie the game at 66 with 13.5 seconds showing on the clock.
“That was a tough shot,” Judkins said. “She makes that one but misses a wide-open 3, so go figure. That’s basketball.”
“She’s awesome and she’s clutch,” Chase added.
A pair of free throws by Gonzales allowed BYU to edge out to a 72-70 lead with 2:05 to play. Maria Albiero pulled down a key rebound for the Cougars with 30 seconds to play but BYU ended up with a shot clock violation on the other end, giving UC Riverside 3.3 seconds to tie. Tianna Eaton got a good look at a triple off the out-of-bounds play but the ball was short and BYU survived for its first victory of the season.
“I’m really proud of my team tonight,” Judkins said. “We got behind and we could have made some bad mistakes but we stepped it up, all of them. Each kid did something in a positive way to help us win the game.”
BYU struggled from the 3-point line in the opening quarter (0-for-6) while the visitors connected on 7 of its first 10 shots to take a 19-14 lead. The Cougars trailed 21-16 at the end of the first but went on an 8-0 run to open the second, fueled by a full-court press and some ball-hawking from Jasmine Moody. Johnson and Chase both scored 3-pointers and BYU took a 24-21 lead. Triples from Gonzales and Johnson pushed the Cougar advantage to 37-33 at the break.
BYU got out to its biggest lead, 45-38, when Johnson hit her third 3-pointer of the game with 6:50 to play in the third quarter. But UC Riverside’s De Kergret scored seven straight points tie the game at 45-all with 4:56 remaining. Eaton leaned into a 3-pointer to beat the buzzer and the Roadrunners took a 52-50 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Johnson had 18 points and 12 rebounds before fouling out in the overtime session and Chase added 17 points and seven assists. Gonzales, playing her first official game in a Cougar uniform, added 16 points.
BYU shot 39 percent (26 of 67) from the field and 8 of 27 (30 percent) from the 3-point line. After struggling early, the Cougars finished strong at the line.
Eaton led UC Riverside (0-2) with 18 points while Marina Ewodo, Jannon Otto and De Kergret had 15 points each.
BYU hosts Pac-12 opponent Cal on Tuesday at the Marriott Center.