Get breaking news alerts via email

Click here to manage your alerts
BYU's Kim Beeston speaks during a news conference ahead of practice in Lincoln, Neb., Friday, March 28, 2014. BYU will play Connecticut in an NCAA Lincoln Regional women's semifinal basketball game on Saturday. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
BYU basketball: Cougars need monumental effort vs. UConn

“We just want to go out and prove that we can play with the big dogs.”

First Published Mar 28 2014 03:37 pm • Last Updated Mar 29 2014 10:12 pm

Lincoln, Neb. • Friday must’ve felt very much like a ceremonial pat on the back for BYU.

Great run. You had a great season. Too bad about tomorrow.

At a glance

No. 12 BYU vs. No. 1 UConn

O Pinnacle Bank Arena, Lincoln, Neb.

Tipoff »  Saturday, 2:30 p.m. MDT


Radio »  BYUradio.org

Records »  BYU 28-6; UConn 36-0

Series history »  UConn leads 2-0

Last meeting »  UConn 96, BYU 47 (Nov. 25, 2008)

About the Cougars » BYU features the nation’s top shot-blocker in 6-foot-7 senior center Jen Hamson, who has 141 swats this season. … The Cougars have matched the best finish in school history, last going to a Sweet 16 in 2002, and will go for the program’s first Elite Eight.

About the Huskies » UConn has won every game this season by double digits, and has won 42 straight dating back to last year’s Big East Tournament.

Join the Discussion
Post a Comment

The early obituaries are almost certainly in. Most don’t expect the 12-seeded Cougars to have a chance on Saturday. The media milling around No. 1 Connecticut’s practice dwarfed that of BYU, which is presumed to lay down for the undefeated Huskies to continue a run to their ninth national title.

The Cougars wouldn’t be in Lincoln, wouldn’t be in the Sweet 16 if they had heeded expectations. Off the heels of two big upsets, they’re a confident bunch.

But even they know this: It will take their best game of the season — and maybe one of UConn’s poorer games — to pull off what coach Jeff Judkins called "like the biggest upset ever" early in the week.

"Being a 12 seed and playing some amazing teams, it’s hard to look past the numbers," junior forward Morgan Bailey said. "You see UConn, and you know they’re a powerhouse. We’re just going in with no fear."

Even among Goliaths, this year’s Huskies team stands a head taller.

UConn enters the matchup looking to win its 43rd straight game. They’ve beaten opponents this year by an average of 36 points per game, including 19-point win over Stanford, an 18-point win over Maryland, an 11-point win over Baylor and a 20-point win over Louisville — all top 10-ranked teams at the time.

No opponent has come within single digits of Geno Auriemma’s latest indomitable squad. Looking at their national rankings in key statistical categories is to see a rarely interrupted column of No. 1s. The team is led by potential player of the year Breanna Stewart, a 6-foot-4 star who moves like a guard.

The notion that BYU could be the first to upend the Huskies comes close to heresy.

story continues below
story continues below

"Everybody knows you have to go through UConn to win a championship right now," Judkins said. "You play them now, or you play them in the championship — you’re going to eventually have to meet them."

But the Cougars are a team unafraid to dream. Coming from the West Coast Conference, BYU made its seeding look silly with a double-digit win over NC State and a big victory over Big 10 champ Nebraska.

They have the roles and diversity of a NCAA Tournament team: shot-blocker Jen Hamson, penetrator Lexi Eaton, physical post player Bailey and a number of guards who can nail 3-pointers. While the rest of the world may take BYU lightly, UConn isn’t.

"From a playing standpoint, if you ask anyone on our team what seed BYU is, they won’t know," Auriemma said. "They just know BYU beat Nebraska, and now you have to play them. So at this time of year, don’t get caught up in numbers."

The Cougars are also trying not to get caught up in numbers: their odds to win, the statistical dominance of the Huskies, the numbers under their jersey lettering. Judkins said one of his biggest concerns is that BYU may defeat itself by being intimidated.

On Friday, the players were far from counting themselves out — even if they’re only among a few who don’t.

"More than anything, I think that we just want to go out and prove that we can play with the big dogs," Kim Beeston said. "I think we didn’t necessarily know that we’d be in the Sweet 16, but we knew we could come in and make some noise in this tournament. That’s what we’re doing."

Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Top Reader Comments Read All Comments Post a Comment
Click here to read all comments   Click here to post a comment

About Reader Comments

Reader comments on sltrib.com are the opinions of the writer, not The Salt Lake Tribune. We will delete comments containing obscenities, personal attacks and inappropriate or offensive remarks. Flagrant or repeat violators will be banned. If you see an objectionable comment, please alert us by clicking the arrow on the upper right side of the comment and selecting "Flag comment as inappropriate". If you've recently registered with Disqus or aren't seeing your comments immediately, you may need to verify your email address. To do so, visit disqus.com/account.
See more about comments here.
Staying Connected
Contests and Promotions
  • Search Obituaries
  • Place an Obituary

  • Search Cars
  • Search Homes
  • Search Jobs
  • Search Marketplace
  • Search Legal Notices

  • Other Services
  • Advertise With Us
  • Subscribe to the Newspaper
  • Access your e-Edition
  • Frequently Asked Questions
  • Contact a newsroom staff member
  • Access the Trib Archives
  • Privacy Policy
  • Missing your paper? Need to place your paper on vacation hold? For this and any other subscription related needs, click here or call 801.204.6100.