What could have been an easy win for the No. 23 BYU women’s basketball team turned out to be a full-blown war as they fought to keep their top status in the West Coast Conference and won a road game against Santa Clara on Saturday.
The Broncos led at halftime 39-36 , but the Cougars came out and pulled ahead for a win, 74-64.
“I think every coach, when the season starts, wants to get 20 wins,” BYU coach Jeff Judkins said. “It’s something you aim for. But I’ve got great players who believe in the system, who believe in each other and believe in me. Tonight was a great example of that. Santa Clara played probably its best game of year, but these kids stuck together and believed in each other.”
In that last 10 minutes of the first half of the game, the two teams were neck in neck. The score fluctuated by two points as the two teams fought for the lead on the scoreboard. Senior Kristen Riley nailed a 3-pointer, giving BYU the edge, but it wasn’t enough as BYU walked into the locker room trailing.
The game came down to the last minutes and free throws. In the last three minutes, BYU was down by one point. Sophomore Jennifer Hamson got fouled and made both her shots, giving the lead to BYU. Fouled again, Hamson made her free throws, and scored a field goal. Hamson helped put the game away by giving BYU an insurmountable lead.
“We kind of had a lot of size advantage in the game and my teammates were good to get me the ball inside,” Hamson said. “We’re really proud of [our success]. It’s not just one person who makes this team great, and I love that about us.”
Riley made 4-of-5 shots from 3-point land, marking a new career high for her, while leading BYU with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Senior Dani Peterson had a huge presence with 11 points and five rebounds.
The star for Santa Clara was junior Meagan Fulps, who scored 24 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the field, including 3-for-4 on 3-pointers, and hitting all seven of her free throws.
Defensively, BYU went man-to-man to try and prevent Santa Clara from scoring any more big points. After the defensive switch, freshman Lexi Eaton into foul trouble and she sat on the bench with three personal fouls.
Santa Clara had four key players who were on the bench due to injuries. Senior Alyssa Shoji came into the game averaging 46 percent from the 3-point line but BYU held Shoji to 12 points during the game, which was essential for the Cougars’ win.
Alternately, Stephanie Vermunt went into the game shooting 57.9 percent from the 3-point line but only scored three points in BYU’s victory.