After a successful week of three wins against undefeated teams in the Hukilau Invitational, the BYU women’s basketball team is buckling down for more than just finals: a matchup Thursday with in-state opponent Southern Utah University in the Marriott Center.
The Cougars gained plenty of insight from their Hawaiian excursion, insight that coach Jeff Judkins said they plan to work on for Thursday’s game, as well as the rest of the season.
“Get better on the press — we’re getting hurt on the press too much and they’re getting too many easy baskets,” Judkins said. “We’ve got to get better inside presence. … And I just think [molding] better as a team, knowing what everyone’s expected to do and doing it right. We played two very, very good teams over [in Hawaii], and I think we really learned from it.”
The Thunderbirds are 5-2 this season, their most recent game a 109-59 loss to Oral Roberts University. SUU’s front runners are Hailey Mandelko and Carli Moreland, who average 14.6 and 10.1 points a game, respectively. The team itself averages 62.3 points per game.
BYU’s Kim Parker, a 5-foot-11 sophomore who was recently dubbed the West Coast Conference Player of the Week on Dec. 5, returned to Provo with double the points she had put up in the first six games of the season. Parker has now totaled 123 points this season.
“I feel like [the Hukilau Invitational] was a breakthrough,” Parker said. “Everything was clicking. … I think a lot of times I try and force the pass, or force a bunch of things. This tournament really helped me with knowing if I just play my game, and I don’t focus on making a turnover or things like that, then I can play well.”
Even though the team was in Hawaii, a vacationer’s hot spot, freshman guard Xojian Harry said the team was able to get down to business when necessary and a skill they hope to show at home.
“We definitely had to crack down as soon as that plane landed,” Harry said. “Coming back and getting used to the cold air to play in — we’re not at sea level anymore, but we came back and had a great practice [Monday].”
Because successful games yield to big heads followed by embarrassing losses, Parker said a big key for Thursday’s game is not overlooking SUU.
“I think we just have to focus on the things that we did in [the invitational],” Parker said. “We have to take one game at a time.”
At the same time, Parker said it’s okay to be happy with the success gained in the Hukilau Invitational.
“Those teams that we played [in Hawaii] were great teams, and it could’ve been very easy for us to go in and be scared,” Parker said. “We learned that we can play with anybody. We don’t have to play to other team’s strengths, but we can play to our strengths. I think if we continue to believe that, and play aggressively the whole 40 minutes, and focus on our defense, those are the things that will make us successful this season.”
Thursday’s game is the Cougars’ first home game since the end of November. Tip off is at 7.