The BYU’s women’s basketball team kicked off the Thanksgiving holiday with a win over the Wisconsin Badgers, 77-59, Wednesday night in the Marriott Center.
Though Wisconsin immediately battled BYU’s normal full-court press and soon pulled a six-point lead, the Cougars ignored the discouragement and, seven minutes in, pulled ahead and never looked back.
As the Cougars tackle more games, gain more wins and earn more experience, players who began with little numbers and unimpressive plays are now making big contributions.
Starting senior center Kristen Riley, who scored only 10 points altogether in the first three games of the season, put up nine points against the Badgers. Dani Peterson, a starting forward and senior, had 12 points in the first three games but contributed BYU’s leading amount of 15 points against Wisconsin — her career high.
The normal leading scorers, Kim Parker and Haley Steed, were held back by Wisconsin’s defense and only scored four points apiece, but BYU’s deep bench allowed other players, such as Riley and Peterson, to step up. Lexi Eaton, Jennifer Hamson and Stephanie Vermunt all scored in the double digits.
“We saw incredibly balanced scoring tonight, and I thought that was the key,” BYU’s coach Jeff Judkins said. “[Hamson] gave us really great inside presence tonight and we had a lot of other girls contributing. We did a lot better job in the second half on their bigs, challenging them and minimizing their points.”
Wisconsin head coach Bobbie Kelsey commented on BYU’s deep bench.
“[BYU is] doing what I would like us to do,” Kelsey said. “When our best player is struggling and can’t score, we have other people step up.”
Kelsey also said his team had plenty of open shots, but they just weren’t hit. He explained that hitting shots during the live game is even more important than hitting points from the charity stripe.
Wisconsin’s Taylor Wurtz led all scorers with 18 points — 15 alone in the second half.
The Badgers averaged 41.7 percent from the field and 20 percent from beyond the arc. The Cougars were 53.4 percent in field goals and 27.8 percent in 3-pointers.
Season and career highs littered the Cougars’ board: Xojian Harry had a career high of nine points; Riley with a season high of nine points; Peterson with a career high of 15 points; Hamson contributed a season high of 10 points; and Steed recorded a season high of seven assists.
Next up for the Cougars are the Eastern Washington Eagles on Saturday. The Eagles have a back-and-forth record of wins and losses — their latest game a 14-point loss against Oregon State. The game will be in the Marriott Center at 2 p.m. MST.