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Austin, Texas • Despite putting together one of their best seasons in school history, BYU's women's basketball team had a few fatal flaws in 2015-16, notably lack of inside presence and depth.
Tenth-seeded Missouri exploited those on Saturday night in an NCAA Tournament first-round game, overpowering the seventh-seeded Cougars 78-69 at Frank Erwin Center to end BYU's season.
The Cougars (26-7) lost in the Big Dance's first round for the second straight year. Missouri (22-9) moves on to face No. 2 seed Texas in the second round on Monday.
"They are a very good team," BYU's Lexi Rydalch said. "I have to compliment them. They are tough, they are tall, they execute their stuff well, and they made some good plays down the stretch."
Rydalch led BYU with 22 points, scoring seven points in the second half before fouling out in the final minutes.
"I think we made too many mistakes on defense, and then we just didn't make enough plays at the end of the game," said Rydalch, who was 8 of 17. "I think we fought back hard. We made a nice little run in that fourth quarter, but things just didn't go our way."
BYU coach Jeff Judkins echoed Rydalch's thoughts, saying the Cougars were a play or two from advancing to the second round.
"Right at the end we just couldn't make enough plays," Judkins said. "That's what it comes down to in these games in the NCAAs, is who makes the most plays at the right time, and tonight they hit some baskets and made some plays where we didn't."
Trailing 60-49 entering the fourth quarter, the Cougars got a 3-pointer from Makenzi Pulsipher and driving layups by Cassie Broadhead and Kalani Purcell to get back in the game, and when Amanda Wayment made an awkward shot from underneath the basket, Mizzou's lead was 62-60.
Missouri made one field goal after that, getting a second-chance bucket after a missed free throw, but was deadly from the free-throw line to keep the Cougars from getting over the hump.
Rydalch hit a shot to trim the deficit to 66-64 with 2:19 remaining, but the Cougars misfired on their next two possessions, Purcell missing two jumpers and Kristine Fuller Nielson missing a 3-pointer.
Purcell got in early foul trouble, picking up two in the first quarter, and could never find her rhythm. Despite having to play cautiously, she played the entire game and finished with 19 points and nine rebounds, while fellow junior Pulsipher had 13 points.
With Mizzou trying to deny her the ball most of the second half, Rydalch got free for a drive with around five minutes remaining and scored, but referees wiped away the basket and hit her with an offensive foul, her fourth.
"That was tough," she said of the 50-50 call. "I mean, that's a big momentum-changer. It was a questionable call, but that happens. You have to be able to pick yourself up after those calls."
Really, the game was lost in the third quarter, when Mizzou scored on eight of its first nine possessions and the Cougars got careless with the ball.
Mizzou guard Sophie Cunningham, a freshman, was too big and strong for Rydalch and fellow guard Kylie Maeda to handle, and had six layups in the third quarter alone, finishing with 20 points on 7-for-10 shooting. She scored 16 points in the third quarter, and her free throws with 46 seconds left in that period gave Mizzou an 11-point lead.
Some of the easy buckets came on inbounds plays.
"That is just a defensive breakdown on our part," Rydalch said. "We walked through them and everything. There are no excuses for that."
R The Tigers dominate play inside, outscore the Cougars 36-26 in the paint.
• Missouri holds Lexi Rydalch to 22 points, seven after halftime.
• Missouri's bench outscores BYU's 21-7.