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PROVO — For a big chunk of the game, the BYU women’s basketball team hung with one of the top-20 teams in the country.
But down the stretch, they learned there is still plenty of work to do.
Maddie Manning gave No. 16 Oklahoma a 61-57 lead with five minutes remaining, and the Cougars shot just 2-of-15 in the fourth quarter in falling 68-61 Saturday afternoon at the Marriott Center.
“We had opportunities, had a lot of good looks and didn’t make them,” BYU coach Jeff Judkins said. “If you are going to beat a good time like Oklahoma, you’ve got to make plays, make shots, and you’ve got to make opportunities that come.”
Cassie Broadhead scored a game-high 16 points to go along with three assists for BYU (1-2), and Makenzi Pulsipher added 15 points and five assists.
But when the Sooners (3-0) were charging and BYU needed a bucket, Broadhead had to go to the locker room. The starting point guard fell awkwardly on her hand and received treatment, but missed nearly eight minutes in which Oklahoma took control for good.
“We played a top-25 team, and barely lost. I don’t think we played our best game,” Broadhead said. “A big reason we schedule these games is to get used to the physicality. West Coast basketball is a bit more finesse, and the Big 12 and SEC are more physical. We play these so we can bring out that toughness and last in the tournament — to win games.
“We learned that we can beat anybody. It’s just a matter of taking care of the ball. We’ll keep working at it; it’s only the third game of 30 this season. We’ll be all right.”
Kalani Purcell supplied eight points, 13 rebounds, three assists and four steals, and Kristine Nielson chipped in eight points and five boards for the Cougars.
“We came back; we didn’t just fold,” Broadhead said. “We played as a team, and we played hard; that’s all you can ask. We had some turnovers, but we can fix those.
“We’ve had two really hard games, but we did this on purpose to see where we are at and where we can be.”
BYU stretched a 34-31 halftime lead to 54-47 at the end of the third quarter, but the Sooners (3-0) held the Cougars to just one shot in their final nine attempts to hold on for the win.
Peyton Little scored 16 points for Oklahoma, and Manning finished with 11 points and three steals.
BYU, which lost by 30 points at Georgia on Wednesday, travels to New Mexico for a Thanksgiving weekend tournament against St. Joseph’s, Tulsa and UNM.
“After our game against Georgia, we were out-competed and out-hustled,” Pulsipher said. “The big thing this game was that we competed. I don’t think there was effort in our last game, and there was a big difference this game. We had more confidence in ourselves and each other.
“I know this team will be great, but it will take time. We took a step forward tonight, even though we lost.”