The Arizona Wildcats women’s basketball team has advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament after destroying Stony Brook 77-49 on Monday and will face BYU on Wednesday with a trip to the Sweet Sixteen on the line.
The No. 11-seeded Cougars upset No. 6-seeded Rutgers 69-66 in the first round, overcoming a 12-point third-quarter deficit.
Here’s a little bit more about the Cougars.
BYU last made the NCAA Tournament in 2019 as a 7-seed. They beat 10-seed Auburn in the first round before falling to 2-seed Stanford in the second round.
The Cougars are 19-5 this season and went 13-3 in the West Coast Conference. They lost by a point to Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament championship game but earned an at-large bid, much to the surprise of some bracketologists.
Rutgers was only BYU’s third game against a major-conference team. They beat LSU, a below average SEC team, 67-51 in Las Vegas to open the season. Then they lost to Washington, which finished 11th in the Pac-12, 77-48 in their second game.
BYU has the No. 54 offense and No. 60 defense in the country, per Her Hoop Stats. Led by the All-WCC guard duo of Shaylee Gonzales (17.9 PPG) and Paisley Harding (14.6 PPG), the Cougars entered the tournament ranked 21st in the country in field-goal percentage defense (35.5%) and 21st in assists per game (16.6).
Harding, a senior, had 28 points on 17 shots in the win over Rutgers. She went 4 for 9 from 3 and 8 for 10 from the free-throw line. Gonzales, a sophomore from Gilbert, struggled from the field (3 for 17) but went 10 for 11 from the charity stripe to finish with 17 points.
BYU’s best post is Lauren Gustin, a 6-foot-1 sophomore who also made the All-WCC team and was an AP All-American honorable mention. She averages 11.5 points and 12.8 rebounds per game and posted 10 points and 11 boards against Rutgers. She scores exclusively inside the arc.
Sara Hamson, an All-WCC honorable mention, is averaging a league best 2.5 blocks per game, the most in the WCC. She is 6-foot-7.
Tegan Graham is BYU’s floor-stretching forward. She has made almost half of her 89 3-point attempts this season. Arizona will have to be wary of her off the bench. She drained three triples against Rutgers.
As a whole, the Cougars are only a decent 3-point shooting team (33.3%) and score about a third of their points from that range. They shot 9 for 23 against Rutgers, though, the biggest reason they were able to pull off the upset.
BYU is 121st in the country in turnover rate—only average—which could be very problematic against Arizona’s press defense as we saw with Stony Brook, which coughed the ball up 25 times against the Wildcats.
BYU ranked second in the WCC in offensive rebounds per game and third in defensive rebounds. They turned 14 offensive rebounds into 18 second-chance points against Rutgers. That could be an area where they can exploit UA’s undersized frontcourt. Stony Brook outrebounded Arizona 32-28.
The Cougars are led by head coach Jeff Judkins, the 2020-21 WCC Coach of the Year. He has a 430-199 record in 20 seasons at BYU. This is his 10th time leading the Cougars to the NCAA Tournament.