Watch her work: No. 19 BYU women’s basketball highlights tourney push across Utah

The BYU Cougars have a good time after profitable a West Coast Convention recreation in opposition to the Gonzaga Bulldogs on the Marriott Middle in Provo on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022. (Mengshin Lin, Deseret Information)

Estimated learn time: 8-9 minutes

PROVO — Moments after No. 19 BYU ladies’s basketball hammered convention rival Gonzaga 63-39 in entrance of a school-record crowd, Tegan Graham grabbed the mic, smiled and regarded up into the lower-bowl capability crowd contained in the 19,000-seat Marriott Middle and wiped a tear from her eye.

“Do you assume individuals need to watch ladies’s sports activities?” she shouted to a thunderous applause.

The query hit completely different from Graham, not solely as a result of the Colgate graduate switch was celebrating senior day Saturday afternoon. The native New Zealander additionally wrote her grasp’s thesis on gender fairness in Division I athletics, which she defended Wednesday.

She is aware of the challenges nonetheless forward of ladies’s sports activities when it comes to reaching full equality with the boys’s recreation. However for one afternoon in Provo, the imaginative and prescient of what ladies’s sports activities in America could be — sturdy, however with a approach to go — stared her again within the face.

To see the group of 6,289 followers contained in the Marriott Middle for one in all her video games, utterly unrelated to the boys’s basketball group that was on the highway at Saint Mary’s on the time, struck a nerve.

“I’m very, very captivated with this topic,” she stated. “I feel there’s such an enormous hole, and there is a lot potential for ladies’s sports activities, particularly basketball, to develop. And there are such a lot of the reason why that hole must be closed.”

Separate however equal has all the time been the mantra in evaluating males’s and ladies’s sports activities, notably in basketball. However for much too lengthy, the emphasis has gave the impression to be extra on the “separate” than the “equal.”

So why aren’t extra individuals speaking about ladies’s basketball on this state?

“I do not know; why do not you guys discuss that extra?” requested Paisley Harding, grabbing a close-by TV reporter’s microphone and yelling into the digital camera, half-joking but in addition with an air of frankness.

One after the other, and even 6,000 followers at a time, the BYU ladies’s basketball group is fixing that. From the scholar part that has greater than tripled in dimension to the younger ladies like Harding’s finest buddy Payton who exhibits up each recreation to look at her idols, the Cougars are taking names and increasing invites to see the very best present on the town — the one which ranks eleventh nationally in scoring offense with 78.2 factors per recreation and third in scoring margin at 20.2 factors.

“It is a completely different recreation. And we’re not right here to check one group in opposition to the opposite,” Harding stated. “Each groups could be unimaginable; there’s area at BYU for each males’s and ladies’s basketball groups to be unimaginable.

“However I feel individuals need to watch us. There is a stigma with some trolls on Instagram, however I simply chortle at these. I do not assume it is a huge deal. The true ones know what it is wish to be right here on the Marriott Middle.”

The identical goes for ladies’s basketball packages throughout Utah. In a season the place males’s basketball has largely underwhelmed on the state’s seven Division I universities, the ladies’s recreation has largely picked up the slack.

BYU is a projected top-five seed within the NCAA Match, which is able to increase to characteristic 68 groups to match its males’s counterpart this 12 months for the primary time in NCAA historical past. The Cougars boast a 23-2 document, together with a 13-1 mark in West Coast Convention play along with wins over Fresno State, Arizona State, Washington State, West Virginia, Florida State and Utah for a No. 9 NET rating.

Those self same Utes are additionally projected within the subject, at the moment clinging to a No. 9 seed by ESPN bracketology knowledgeable Charlie Creme with a 16-9 document, a 7-6 mark in Pac-12 play, and a No. 25 NET ranking.

Additional south, Southern Utah is 16-10 total with a 12-5 document in Huge Sky play — simply 1.5 video games behind Idaho State and Montana State for the convention crown with three video games remaining.

In between them is Utah Valley, which is using a four-game profitable streak earlier than the most important stretch to finish the common season for the Western Athletic Convention upstarts wanting towards its second NCAA Match berth in program historical past.

Utah Valley coach Dan Nielson huddles with his team during the Wolverines' recent 65-51 win over Seattle U. in the UCCU Center. UVU has won eight of its last 10 games to rocket up the Western Athletic Conference standings.
Utah Valley coach Dan Nielson huddles along with his group throughout the Wolverines’ current 65-51 win over Seattle U. within the UCCU Middle. UVU has gained eight of its final 10 video games to rocket up the Western Athletic Convention standings. (Photograph: UVU Advertising and marketing)

The Wolverines (13-12, 8-6 WAC) hit their closing convention highway journey in opposition to Cal Baptist and Seattle tied for fourth with Abilene Christian within the league desk, and whereas catching Stephen F. Austin (23-3, 14-0 WAC) is probably going an excessive amount of for any group, a top-four seed within the convention event in Las Vegas is inside attain for a group that certified for this system’s first NCAA Match a 12 months in the past.

That is an enormous leap from the place the Wolverines had been shortly after Christmas, after they had been in the course of a six-game shedding skid that included the primary three video games of convention play.

“I feel the most important factor our ladies have performed was keep dedicated to enjoying higher defensively,” UVU coach Dan Nielson stated of the four-game streak that features a 58-50 win at second-place Grand Canyon. “That is been actually essential. They’ve purchased in to our protection, and you may see their willingness to simply compete.

“X’s and O’s, we had been superb. However the will to need to beat the particular person throughout from you wasn’t all the time the place it wanted to be. Should you’ve watched our video games the final couple of weeks, it is undoubtedly there.”

Like BYU, Utah Valley can be profitable video games with protection, holding opponents to simply 59.2 factors per recreation and averaging almost seven steals per contest. The Wolverines are led by standout guards Maria Carvalho and Madison Grange, who’re additionally two of the highest three scorers behind former Roy Excessive star Josie Williams at 13.7 and 10.7 factors per recreation, respectively.

“We have needed to combine in additional zone than I like, however we have purchased into it and been versatile, and I feel you see that to find the correct child that matches it,” Nielson stated. “All of them love the truth that we care about protection and the way we play protection.”

Protection was on show within the Wolverines’ 99-59 win over in-state rival Dixie State on Saturday, simply because it was 5 miles up the highway in Provo.

For at the very least one afternoon, a record-setting crowd noticed what ladies’s sports activities could be as BYU hosted its high challenger within the WCC in Gonzaga and placed on a defensive clinic. Led by deadly murderer Shaylee Gonzales, the sophomore who on Wednesday was named one in all 10 semifinalists for the Becky Hammon Mid-Main Participant of the Yr award, the Cougars held the Zags to 1-of-11 taking pictures within the second quarter en path to a 27-17 halftime lead and by no means regarded again.

For one afternoon, followers did not simply see ladies’s basketball gamers, they noticed basketball stars, no matter gender.

Equal, not simply separate.

And possibly there have been greater than the official 6,289 that shall be logged in this system’s official document books.

“I knew we might have a extremely good crowd,” stated BYU coach Jeff Judkins of the senior-day crowd. “I assumed we had greater than 6,000 individuals, to inform you the reality; I feel individuals snuck in right here and did not purchase a ticket.

“However what an environment. This ambiance was extra spectacular than the one at Gonzaga. It was louder. Even Lisa (Fortier, Gonzaga coach) stated this was an superior crowd, finest I’ve ever seen it. … And the women deserve it. They work onerous. They do no matter they need to do. To see that and to have this crowd really feel the emotion and the onerous work these guys have performed is effectively price it.”

That sort of crowd performed a key position in bringing again three would-be graduated seniors for one more season. The Cougars simply needed to do one thing particular — and with two video games left within the common season, together with a shot at an outright West Coast Convention championship for simply the second time since becoming a member of the WCC in 2011 on Thursday at Santa Clara (7 p.m. MST, WCC Community), there’s loads of time to do exactly that.

“They got here again for that reason. I do know they got here again for me, however primarily for this,” Judkins stated with a chuckle. “In life, only a few individuals can have desires. However they noticed this and so they felt this was going to occur to them — from day one.

“That is what they’re. They got here again to have the ability to actually make a mark, and that is a part of it. However there are lots of, many extra elements of it.”

The sky is the restrict for BYU ladies’s basketball, which contains a pair of high-percentage guards in Gonzales and Harding, a deep menace in Graham, one of many nation’s high rebounders in Gustin, and a defensive menace able to altering the sport off the bench in Hamson.

If final 12 months’s group exuded Candy 16 potential earlier than having its season reduce quick by eventual nationwide runner-up Arizona within the second spherical, this 12 months’s squad has even increased expectations.

And Harding, by no means one to again down from a problem, is not afraid to talk it into existence.

“I feel we might go all the way in which to the championship this 12 months,” she stated. “Nothing can actually stand in our means once we’re working collectively as a group and once we’re on our A-game. We’re a reasonably unimaginable group.”

Beehive Ladies

Basketball within the state of Utah has gone to the women — and so they’re profiting from it. 4 groups from Utah are in rivalry for a top-four seed of their respective convention tournaments, led by West Coast Convention frontrunner BYU.

No. 19 BYU (23-2, 13-1 WCC)

High quality wins: Florida State, West Virginia, Utah, Washington State, Gonzaga (x2)

NET rating: 9

Projected seed by ESPN: No. 5

Utah (16-9, 7-6 Pac-12)

High quality wins: Washington State, Colorado

NET rating: 25

Projected seed by ESPN: No. 9

Utah Valley (13-12, 8-6 WAC)

NET rating: 159

Southern Utah (16-10, 12-5 Huge Sky)

NET rating: 188

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