Beeston, Hamson go out strong
BYU women • Seniors help Cougars challenge UConn.
Published: April 22, 2014 10:06AM
Updated: March 29, 2014 11:45PM
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BYU's Jennifer Hamson (5), Kylie Maeda (15) and Stephanie Rovetti (10) walk off the court following BYU's 70-51 loss to Connecticut in a regional semifinal in the NCAA women's college basketball tournament in Lincoln, Neb., Saturday, March 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)

Lincoln, Neb. • Kim Beeston didn’t know it would be her last college game. Not at the time.

Most expected it to be. It might have occurred to her before facing No. 1-ranked UConn that BYU’s season would soon be over.

But on her last night in a Cougars uniform, the senior guard made the nation wonder how far BYU could go. For a half, her last night didn’t look like her last, as the Cougars kept stride with the Huskies.

“More than just hitting shots was just knowing how well we played together in the first half,” she said. “It was really exciting knowing we were playing great basketball against such a good program. This year has been such a complete blast.”

Beeston hadn’t had the best tournament, scoring nine combined points in the first two rounds to fall well below her season average. But she saved her best for last, knocking down 13 points in the first half to put Connecticut on upset alert before BYU fell 70-51.

The first-half magic carried BYU, and there was no bigger moment than when Beeston followed up her own 3-pointer with another short jumper to give the Cougars a six-point lead. UConn — which trailed for 39 minutes all season leading into the game — was suddenly forced to come back from behind.

Strong senior play wasn’t limited to Beeston alone. Center Jen Hamson helped lock down the paint in the first half, when the Huskies struggled to find the shots they wanted. She finished with 13 rebounds and six blocks, most of which came against All-American center Stefanie Dolson, who was only 4-for-10.

Eventually, UConn would show why it has won 43 straight games and is considered the favorite to win it all. Although the Huskies’ starting seniors, Dolson and Bria Hartley, struggled to shoot, they helped lead the 40-22 second-half run that would seal BYU’s fate.

But Hamson and Beeston didn’t take it as hard as many teams do. There were tears in the locker room, they said, but that’s what teams do when their seasons end.

For the most part, the outgoing Cougars finished their careers with heads held high.

“It’s a little sad, and you don’t want it to end,” Hamson said. “But it’s exciting. I was proud of our team and proud of what we did together. I’m excited to see what’s next for me.”

kgoon@sltrib.com

Twitter: @kylegoon