Chicago • The BYU women's basketball team got the shot it wanted with the shooter it wanted.
When the ball left senior guard Haley Steed's hands, it felt good. Coach Jeff Judkins thought it was going in.
"Just missed," Steed said later, red-eyed in the Cougars' locker room. "We needed a three, and I was open, so I had to take it."
BYU's 59-55 loss to No. 7-seed DePaul in the first round of the NCAA Tournament wasn't decided by that single moment. The Blue Demons showed more poise, shot better, defended better and showed a lot of will in pulling out a victory Saturday night at All State Arena.
But that shot BYU's last chance to tie the game will surely hang in the Cougars' memory as they contemplate how they missed a chance to make an impression in their first NCAA appearance since 2007.
They could start by looking at DePaul's runs to start both halves. From the opening buzzer, the Blue Demons established themselves as the more experienced team as they led 10-1.
The Cougars fought back, but DePaul did it again in the second half this time an 11-0 run.
"That was the key to the game," Judkins said. "We had some easy looks but we didn't capitalize. … Usually we come out and set a good tone for the game. Tonight we didn't do that."
The second half was a mightily frustrating endeavor for the Cougars, who came in with a 29-27 lead. For more than six minutes, no one could score a bucket as the Demons switched to a zone they hadn't used much this year.
In the first half, BYU's comeback had been fueled by 6-foot-7 Jen Hamson. The sophomore center's reach towered over her opponents, and she rattled off 14 points to give the Cougars the lead. She finished with a game-high 21 points and 11 rebounds.
But after the break, Hamson got in early foul trouble, then was smothered in the post by DePaul's zone. West Coast Conference Player of the Year Kristen Riley did well rebounding, but she shot only 3-for-10 from the field.
BYU didn't have an answer, except for taking 16 second-half 3-pointers. The team only made four.
"No doubt they flustered our offense today," Steed said. "We had a hard time getting the ball inside, so we probably took more threes than we should've."
Despite 20 turnovers and 33 percent shooting from the field, the Cougars clawed back. Hamson made back-to-back buckets thanks to a timely steal, and made another free throw to cut the deficit to three with 1:23 remaining in the game.
The teams traded baskets, then the Cougars made a critical stop. With 10 seconds left, they were poised to make a memorable March moment.
"I would tell Haley to keep taking that shot," Judkins said. "I wouldn't want anyone else taking that shot. … It was the one we really wanted."
DePaul 59, BYU 55
R BYU misses a game-tying shot with 2.8 seconds left, losing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
• Sophomore center Jen Hamson has a strong game for BYU, finishing with 21 points and 11 rebounds.
• DePaul gets 14 steals and has four players finish with double-digit scoring.