LOS ANGELES - In the biggest upset of this year's tournament to date, twelfth-seeded Brigham Young used strong defense Saturday to upend fifth-seeded North Carolina State, 72-57, in the first round of the 2014 NCAA Division I Women's Basketball Tournament at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles Saturday.
Jennifer Hamson grabbed nine of the Cougars' 15 blocks and 19 of their game-high 52 rebounds in an effort that saw BYU hold Wolfpack leading-scorer Markeisha Gatling to just 11 points. Lexi Eaton lead the Cougars with 25 points, while Kylie Maeda added 14, Morgan Bailey 13 and Hamson, 12, in an all-round team effort. BYU shot 44.8 percent on the game, while NC State connected on just 27.4 percent of its attempts from the field.
The Cougars will face fourth-seeded Nebraska in the second round on Monday, also at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion.
BYU coach Jeff Judkins said the Cougars specifically prepared for Gatling, a strong center who helps drive NC State's offense.
"It was a gamble on my part tonight," Judkins said. "I put Bailey on [Gatling] because I didn’t want foul trouble with Jen [Hamson] early. Jen did a great job guarding [NC State's Kody] Burke. Burke had some shots, but she had 6-foot-6 and an arm flying at her hand every time she shot it."
Both teams played evenly for most of the first half, with the lead changing three times. The Cougers went on a 7-1 run in the last 3:44 of the frame to lead 33-26 at halftime.
The Wolfpack were strong to begin the second half, cutting the lead to 33-38 by the 16:41 mark.
BYU then went on a 24-8 run to establish a 62-41 lead with 5:30 left in regulation.
NC State responded with a 10-2 run of their own, but it was too little, too late. Miah Spencer led the Wolfpack with 16 points, while Len'Nique Brown added 10.
Hamson said defense was a team effort for the Cougars.
“My whole focus was to rebound and play defense," she said. "I knew that if I did that, we could play together as a team and we could do it together. I have great teammates who take advantage offensively when I’m not feeling it. We just worked together and I tried to do my part on defense.”
Bailey said she relished the chance to guard Gatling, and she took advantage of it.
"On defense, I think I have been waiting for a game like this all year," Bailey said. "I have never played against a big like her before. I made it a point to play early and try to push her off the block as much as I could. That is my type of game; I love being physical. It was fun.”
Wolfpack head coach Wes Moore, a finalist for 2014 Naismith National Women's College Coach of the Year thanks to the turnaround he has wrought in Raleigh in his first year on the job there, gave credit to the Cougars, whom he characterized as well-coached, well-prepared and tough. But he said this wasn't the way his team wanted to end its season.
"It will hurt for a while," Moore said.
The winner of Monday's game will advance to the Sweet 16, and will travel to Lincoln, Neb. for regional competition.