LOS ANGELES (AP)—An “average” day by Angel McCoughtry helped end Louisville’s tournament troubles, at least for now.
After two straight first-round exits, the sixth-seeded Cardinals beat No. 11 seed BYU 80-54 in the opening round of the Greensboro Regional on Saturday night.
McCoughtry had 24 points and nine rebounds, and Jazz Covington had 14 points and grabbed seven boards for Louisville (27-7). McCoughtry, the Big East player of the year, shot 8-of-15 from the field and was 6-of-7 from the line before sitting down with 2:25 left.
“It was an average game for her,” Louisville coach Tom Collen said. “She amazingly steps up and makes shots with people in her face.”
McCoughtry, a 6-foot-1 sophomore, led the Big East with 21.9 points and 10.6 rebounds per game.
It was the Cardinals’ first tournament victory since 1998. Now they’ll look to win a second-round game for the first time in 11 trips to the tournament.
“We’ve had some tough draws,” Collen said. “But we were just too focused tonight on taking that extra step.”
Dani Wright, the Mountain West player of the year, led BYU (23-10) with 12 points and Mallary Gillespie had 10, but Gillespie and Jennie Keele, the team’s top 3-point shooters, went a combined 1-for-13 from behind the arc.
“This was one of the worst games we’ve played all year,” BYU coach Jeff Judkins said. “It just seemed like we were a step slow. They were stronger and more athletic than they looked on tape.”
Louisville took advantage of eight BYU turnovers in the first eight minutes to race out to an 18-6 lead, capped by an offensive rebound and a layup from McCoughtry.
“They came out and got all up in us,” Gillespie said.
It took a while for McCoughtry to get involved. She didn’t score a field goal for the first eight minutes, but still had 17 points by halftime.
“They jumped in some junk defenses on her a little bit, and denied her all over the floor,” Collen said. “But I thought she did a good job of just being blue collar and getting some offensive rebounds. She also just rose up and stuck some shots.”
The Cardinals closed the first half with a 19-5 run to take a 21-point halftime lead. McCoughtry made a 3-pointer then had a steal that led to a 3 by Slaughter to put Louisville ahead 44-23.
BYU had 14 first-half turnovers, and Louisville just three.
Louisville led by as many as 27 in the second half, but BYU used an 8-0 run midway through the half to pull within 19. The Cougars would get no closer.
BYU shot 19-of-50 (38 percent) from the field and just 3-of-20 from 3-point range. The loss comes a week after a 14-point defeat to New Mexico in the Mountain West tournament final.
The Cardinals looked happy and comfortable to be playing outside the brutal Big East for the first time in two months.
They had lost five of 10 to conference foes coming in, including a 26-point defeat to Connecticut in the Big East tournament, a game during which McCoughtry scored just nine points.