PROVO — The BYU women's basketball team almost gave it away, but had just enough in the end to pull out a 72-66 win in double overtime over Santa Clara on Thursday.
Yet again it was Cassie Broadhead leading the way for the Cougars, scoring a game-high 28 points, but more importantly, coming up big when it counted.
With her team down 65-62 in the first overtime, and just before the final buzzer sounded, Broadhead found enough space to let loose a game-tying 3-pointer from the top of the key to send the game into double-overtime as time expired. The shot capped off an improbable rally, with the Cougars down 63-59 with just 20 ticks left in the first overtime period.
"I just tried to push the ball and they gave me a little bit of a gap. So I just pulled up and shot it," Broadhead described. "A lot of prayers and it went in."
Kristine Nielson helped set up Broadhead's heroics, hitting a 3-pointer of her own, cutting the deficit to 63-62 with 12 seconds remaining.
"(Nielson's) shot was almost as big as (Broadhead's)," said BYU coach Jeff Judkins. "Because if she doesn't hit it, then we have no chance of really getting to the second overtime."
"The ball wasn't really dropping for me tonight, so I'm grateful for that one and grateful to (Judkins) and my teammates for believing in me," added Nielson, who finished with just six points.
BYU then took full control in the second overtime, riding a lot of the momentum gained and then locking down on defense. The result was a 7-1 stymie of Santa Clara to come away with a win Judkins was ultimately very pleased with.
"I've been at this for a long time and I can't be more proud of my team for what they did tonight," Judkins said. "They just stuck together and they made plays."
As for the game leading up to the thrilling end, the Cougars led most of the way. Despite Broadhead sitting most of the second quarter with three fouls, the Cougars managed a 31-24 lead at the break.
The third quarter saw the Cougars increase the lead to 43-30, and apparently poised to cruise to the win before the Broncos got hot. Scoring 27 points in the fourth quarter, Santa Clara had all the momentum heading into the first overtime and proved as much by slugging toward what was seemingly a secure lead with 20 seconds left and up 63-59.
Also playing big was Kalani Purcell, who just missed logging a triple-double by a single assist. The senior forward ultimately finished with 10 points, 17 rebounds and nine assists.
Santa Clara was led by Emily Wolph, who scored a team-high 22 points and proved big in the Broncos' comeback in the fourth quarter.
As for Broadhead's game-tying shot at the end of the first overtime, Judkins puts it up with some of the best he's seen over his 15 years coaching at BYU.
As for the team, the BYU head coach believes the way his team gutted out Thursday's win could play big for the remainder of the season.
"They deserved to win this game tonight," Judkins said. "Sometimes a win like this can really get your season and really make you feel good about yourself — that if you can execute, you can win."
With the win BYU improves to 13-7 overall and 7-2 in West Coast Conference play. Next up for the Cougars is a road game against Loyola Marymount this Saturday.