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BYU Hoping to Make History Against UConn

28 March 2014 Brett Richins
Lexi Eaton drives to the hoop against Nebraska. (BYU photo)

Lexi Eaton drives to the hoop against Nebraska. BYU defeat the Cornhuskers 80-76 to advance to the Sweet Sixteen at the NCAA tournament. (BYU photo)

PROVO–The BYU women’s basketball team makes its first appearance in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA tournament since 2002 on Saturday in Lincoln, Neb.

The No. 12 seeded Cougars also the face the monumental task of trying to take down the No. 1 ranked and undefeated UConn Huskies.

The defending national champs are also the top overall seed in the tournament and have defeated their opponents this season by an average of 36 points per game. Their closest game this year was an 11-point victory at 5th-ranked Baylor.

UConn has defeated BYU in the two previous meetings between the two programs, winning in Connecticut 80-34 in 2007 and knocking off the Cougars by a score of 96-47 in Provo in 2008.

In the round of 32 on Tuesday, the Huskies dominated St. Joseph’s, winning by 39 points 91-52. Needless to say, a win by the Cougars would be one of the biggest upsets in the history of the women’s NCAA tournament.

The sliver of hope for BYU is that Jeff Judkins’ team has specialized in upsets in its first two games of the tourney.

The Cougars thumped the No. 5 seed North Carolina State from the ACC 72-57, and then prevented Big Ten tournament champion and No. 4 seed Nebraska from advancing to play this weekend’s regional on their home court by holding off the Huskers 80-76.

UConn, however, is a completely different animal than BYU has played this year.

The Huskies are by far the most talented, athletic and physical team the Cougars have seen–maybe ever. They have five players averaging double figures in scoring, including 6-foot-4 forward and leading scorer Breanna Stewart, who averages 19.7 points per game. The leading rebounder is 6-foot-5 center Stefanie Dolson, who also averages 12.4 points.

The Cougars will counter with their own inside presence in 6-foot-7 center Jennifer Hamson. The senior leads the nation in blocks shots, swatting 141 of opponents attempts this season. She also leads BYU in both scoring (18.o ppg) and rebounds (11.5 rpg). Through the first two games of the tournament she has averaged 13.5 points, 16.5 rebounds and 6.5 blocks.

Hamson will have to have another outstanding game, and her teammates will also have to continue to step up in a big way, in order for the Cougars to have a shot on Saturday afternoon.

Guard Lexi Eaton scored 25 points and pulled down eight rebounds against NC State, and then had 15 points and six boards against Nebraska. Forward Morgan Bailey led the team with 18 points against Nebraska and recorded six rebounds. Against the Wolfpack she had 13 points and 12 boards.

The X-factor in the Cougars hopes of an upset might just be the scheming mind of Judkins, who faces legendary UConn coach Geno Auriemma.

As a coach, Juddy cut his teeth as an assistant for ten years under the late basketball savant Rick Majerus at Utah. Majerus was a master at coming up with effective defensive schemes, particularly during the NCAA tournament. He famously employed a triangle-and-two defense to defeat top-seeded and defending national championship Arizona in the Elite Eight in 1998.

Though his personality is almost 180 degrees from that of Majerus, Jeff has a similar mind for the game. He’ll have to come up something special defensively in order for his team to stay in the game and perhaps have a chance at the end.

“One thing (the Huskies) don’t have experience with, is that they haven’t had a close game,” Judkins said on Wednesday. “They haven’t had to execute a play at the end of a game to make something happen–maybe that could be to our advantage.”

If the Cougars can shock the world of women’s hoops and get the victory against the most storied program in the country, they would advance to the Elite Eight for the first time in school history where they would face the winner of No. 7 DePaul/No. 3 Texas A&M on Monday.

Jeff Judkins’ Coaching Record

School Yrs. Record Postseason
BYU 2001-02 24-9 NCAA Sweet 16
BYU 2002-03 19-12 NCAA 1st Round
BYU 2003-04 15-14 DNC
BYU 2004-05 19-11 WNIT 1st Round
BYU 2005-06 26-6 NCAA 2nd Round
BYU 2006-07 23-10 NCAA 1st Round
BYU 2007-08 13-16 DNC
BYU 2008-09 18-11 DNC
BYU 2009-10 23-10 WNIT Quarterfinals
BYU 2010-11 25-9 WNIT Third Round
BYU 2011-12 26-7 NCAA 1st Round
BYU 2012-13 23-11 WNIT Third Round
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