The Portland Pilots women’s basketball squad hosted the Brigham Young University Cougars Thursday night in a key WCC matchup. BYU, sitting at second in the conference, outlasted the Pilots 66-54 to even the season series between the two teams at 1-1 and put some distance between themselves and the third place Pilots.
Portland came out of the gate aggressive as senior guard Kate Andersen hit a three pointer to start the scoring. After Andersen’s shot, however, the Pilots went on a scoring drought for the next five minutes of the first quarter. BYU took advantage of the Pilot’s scoring troubles and frequent turnovers to jump out to a lead of 3-8.
Despite shooting under 27% from the field in the first quarter, the Pilots kept the game close behind scrappy defense that forced eight first quarter turnovers from the Cougars. Portland found themselves down just four at the first quarter break, 14-10.
The shooting struggles carried over into the early stages of the second quarter for the Pilots, only hitting two of their first six shots. BYU was able to extend the lead midway through the quarter to 23-14 after Portland tied it at 14 early in the quarter.
“We have to keep watching film, learn the game and slow it down,” Pilots’ starting guard Haylee Andrews said. “We have to see where the open looks were and execute next time.”
Portland also committed to the full court press on every inbounds play from BYU. This gave BYU some fits, but also left Portland exposed to bigger forwards in the paint when the press was broken.
The Pilots’ bench and fans also showed some displeasure about the officiating during the first half. Multiple times the consensus was that the officials missed three in the key violations along with fouls and other violations not called.
The shooting improved for Portland in the latter half of the second quarter, most importantly from three point range. Portland ended the half shooting 45% from three point range and 35% from the floor, including 43% from the floor in the second quarter. Armed with stout defense, the Pilots owned a halftime lead of 31-30
The pace was set by BYU out of the break who scored the first nine points of the half. Portland missed their first five attempts of the first quarter before freshman Alex Fowler scored the first two points of the half for Portland around the six minute mark in the third quarter.
“Any team is going to go on droughts here and there,” Portland head coach Michael Meek said. “The way to overcome them is to be great defensively, and I think we did well overall.”
The third quarter continued to be paced by BYU as sharing the ball and being aggressive on defense helped the Cougars take an eight point lead into the final quarter. The Cougars racked up nine assists while shooting 10-15 from the floor in the third quarter.
Portland came out with intensity in the fourth quarter, playing hard and cut the BYU lead to just six. However, Portland again went on a five minute scoring drought, allowing the Cougars to extend the lead to 13 with under four minutes left to play and would not look back.
The Pilots will play another key game against the third-place San Diego Toreros on Saturday Feb. 1 at 2 p.m.
Jamison White is a sports reporter at The Beacon. He can be reached at email@example.com.