Provo • How easy would it be to feel satisfaction by just coming close to beating the eighth-ranked team in the nation?
Rightly, the Brigham Young women's basketball team was pleased with its effort in a 61-55 loss to Duke on Friday night in the Marriott Center.
Yet, the Cougars understood that their lack of execution down the stretch cost them a shot at a season-opening upset.
"We really learned as team what our future is," BYU coach Jeff Judkins said.
With five minutes gone in the second half, BYU had come all the way back from nine-point Blue Devil lead and had built a 34-29 advantage. The Cougars, so young in many positions, battled Duke, also a team built with a surplus of sophomores and freshmen, even.
That's when BYU (0-1) let the game slip. Duke (1-0) went on an 8-0 run and was never headed. The Blue Devils used their zone to scored 24 points off of 22 Cougar turnovers.
"We like to attack," Duke coach Joanne McCallie said. "We like to be aggressive. It's a lot of fun."
Quick-handed Duke sophomore Chelsea Gray, who finished with a career-high six steals, buried the Cougars' chances with several clutch shots.
"We had to be poised, especially on the road," said Gray, who finished with a game-high 15 points.
BYU was led by Kim Parker's 14 points. But it was guard Haley Steed's stat line that drew the most attention, especially her 15 rebounds to go with 12 points.
"That's hard to explain," McCallie said. "A point guard with 15 rebounds. â¦ I've never seen that before."
Unfortunately, Steed also turned the ball over 10 times, including several moments when the clock was winding down and she drove the key to force up shots.
"I'm disappointed," she said. "But I played as hard as I could."
BYU receives quality play from several freshmen. Xojian Harry buried two threes in the first half to keep the game from getting out of hand. She finished with eight points and Lexi Eaton had 10.
"It's a lot tougher playing Duke than Spanish Fork," Judkins said. "My team didn't quit."
No. 8 Duke 61, BYU 55
R BYU's Haley Steed finishes with 15 rebounds, 12 points and 10 turnovers.
• Duke scores 24 points off of 22 BYU turnovers.
• BYU overcomes a 9-point Duke lead to take a 5-point lead early in the second half.