Lincoln, Neb. • In the week leading into BYU’s matchup with Connecticut, the Cougars said if they played their game, they could stun the top-ranked Huskies.
In the first half, they did. In the second half, they didn’t.
BYU thrived in the half-court game against UConn, winding down the clock and forcing clunky attempts on defense. But a tempo change put the Cougars out of their comfort zone and ended up being a big advantage in UConn’s 70-51 win on Saturday afternoon.
A few fast-break points and the Cougars rushing their shots gave the Huskies the run they needed to pull away.
"I knew he wanted to get us to speed up our offense," coach Jeff Judkins later said of Geno Auriemma’s halftime adjustments. "It’s something we are really going to have to work hard on. That’s what a lot of teams try to do to us."
For his part, the UConn coach was complimentary of how BYU forced his Huskies into a halfcourt game early. The Cougars’ early success on offense kept their opponents from making the game into a track meet.
It was perhaps some of that frustration that translated into UConn’s own shooting issues.
BYU made it harder by throwing out a variety of different schemes on the defensive end.
"They did a lot of crazy stuff," Auriemma said.
"They were changing things up all the time because they could, because they were scoring. Our response was, instead of making them play faster, we started to play quicker on offense, which was not really what we wanted to do."
Eaton struggles against Stewart
One notable quiet night came from one of BYU’s best stars. Sophomore guard Lexi Eaton struggled to get going, first getting into foul trouble in the opening minutes, then running into a wall against Wooden Award candidate Brenna Stewart.
Eaton ended up playing only 20 minutes, shooting 4-for-14 with eight points. Three of those shots came in the early minutes of the second half, when it appeared she might get going to help lead the Cougars to an upset.
But Stewart, who is listed at 6 inches taller than Eaton, had other ideas. The sophomore forward had a poor shooting night herself, but she contained BYU’s best perimeter scoring threat with her long arms and helped force her into four turnovers.
"I think her size really got Lexi off balance," Judkins said. "She’s used to quick players guarding her, and that was kind of a change. That’s why [Stewart] is an All-American. She can do it all."
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