Falatea scores 24, leads BYU to 66-41 win over Saint Mary's
PROVO, Utah — Nani Falatea scored a career-high 24 points and powered BYU to a 66-41 win over Saint Mary’s on Saturday afternoon at the Marriott Center.
With the win, the Cougars (7-8, 2-2) have won three in a row for the first time this season.
The sophomore guard from Salt Lake City, Utah, shot 10-of-16 from the field and 2-of-4 from distance to go along with seven assists and four rebounds. Falatea also left her mark on defense with three steals and a career-high three blocks.
“This was a really good win for our team, but there are still a lot of things we can improve on,” said BYU head coach Amber Whiting. "Nani is finally owning her role, stepping in and being that leader. I’ve been pushing her to be a leader, she is gaining confidence with every game she plays and she’s become someone who wants the ball in her hands in big moments."
Rose Bubakar, Lauren Gustin and Arielle Mackey-Williams also reached double figures on Saturday. Bubakar scored 14 points on 6-of-8 shooting including 2-for-2 from 3-point range. Gustin, entering the game as the nation's leading rebounder, notched her NCAA-best 14th double-double in 15 games with 13 points and 16 rebounds. Mackey-Williams put up 10 points with four rebounds and two assists.
As a team, BYU shot 54 percent while holding the Gaels to 27 percent. The Cougars also crashed the boards to the tune of 47 rebounds versus Saint Mary’s 23. BYU outscored Saint Mary’s in both the paint (34-18) and fast break points (15-5).
Falatea asserted herself as a force on both offense and defense right from the tip-off. The sophomore guard sparked the Cougar offense as she dove to the floor for a loose ball and delivered it to Mackey-Williams for a fast break bucket that tied the game at four in the opening minutes.
Falatea then went on a 4-0 run of her own to put BYU up 8-6. Two free throws from Falatea helped BYU to a 12-6 lead before Bubakar finished the quarter with a driving score to give BYU a 14-9 lead at the close of the opening period.
BYU shot 47 percent in the first quarter while holding the Gaels to 29 percent. The Cougars also commanded the glass with a 12-6 rebounding advantage.
With Falatea at the controls of the offense, the Cougars cruised during a 13-0 run to start the quarter. Mackey-Williams opened the quarter with a trey to put BYU up 17-9. Amanda Barcello came off the bench and immediately made an impact on defense. Barcello’s air-tight one-on-one defense forced a Gael turnover and gave Falatea the green light for a personal 8-0 run that put BYU in control at 25-9 with 4:56 left in the quarter.
A second steal from Falatea and resultant Gustin lay-in countered a brief Saint Mary’s resurgence, putting BYU up 32-14 with 1:36 to go until halftime.
Gabriela Bosquez came off the bench to score the Cougars’ final points of the half with a 3-point play following a foul on her corner jumper.
BYU finished the half shooting 55 percent from the field on the way to a 37-19 lead. The Cougar defense held Saint Mary’s to 31 percent shooting and dominated the glass 21-10. Falatea nearly outscored the Gaels by herself with a single-half career-high 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting. Mackey-Williams poured in seven points as well.
BYU came out of the locker room with a slow start and Saint Mary’s responded with a 7-2 run that cut BYU’s lead to 13 at 39-26 early on.
The Cougars collected themselves during a timeout and roared back to life, pushing the pace in transition and scoring easy buckets to finish the quarter on a 14-4 run.
Mackey-Williams helped the Cougars gather momentum with an assist to a cutting Gustin followed by a 3-pointer on BYU’s next possession. Bubakar then came in off the bench to score six-straight with two transition lay-ins and a 3-pointer. Falatea finished the quarter with another driving score to give BYU a game-high 23-point lead at 53-30.
While the Gaels scored 11 points to eclipse 40 for the day, 3-pointers from Gustin, Bubakar and Falatea helped BYU put away Saint Mary’s in the final quarter. Falatea’s final trey gave BYU a game-high 27-point lead at 66-39. The shot also set the guard’s new career-high at 24 points.
The Cougars have a week to prepare for their next game as BYU hosts San Diego at the Marriott Center on Jan. 7 at 2 p.m. MST. Watch the Cougars tangle with the Toreros live on BYUtv, the BYUtv App and BYUtv.org.
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