Vying for the No. 1 ranking in the West Coast Conference, BYU and Gonzaga played a hard-fought game Thursday night in the Marriott Center in front of a packed crowd.
BYU (22-4, 10-2) beat Gonzaga (21-4, 10-2) Thursday night 70-40 to secure the Cougars’ first win against a ranked team since Nov. 13, 2006 when they beat No. 4 Stanford.
Sophomore Kim Parker led the way for the Cougars with 16 points, while sophomore Jennifer Hamson came in strong from the bench to score 14 points. Senior Haley Steed also came up big in the second half, passing Erin Thorn to become third on the all-time assists leader board for the Cougars with 507 career assists.
The first half started out slow as both teams showed their nerves early and shot under 30 percent. The Cougars came out shooting much better the second half, going 65 percent from the field and hitting five of their eight three point attempts. Gonzaga was no match for BYU’s defense, shooting only 21.9 percent from the field and turning the ball over 15 times during the game.
BYU Coach Jeff Judkins said he couldn’t be more pleased with the girls’ play.
“I’m really proud of my team,” Judkins said. “I told [them] at half time, we have to get more cuts to the basket and get more penetration or we’re just playing ourselves. I think we did a good job of not letting them get easy baskets.”
The Cougars outscored the Bulldogs 46-20 in the second half to secure the game.
Hamson made a huge impact for the Cougars off the bench in the first half, immediately grabbing two rebounds and knocking down four points. Adding to her 14 points for the night were her three blocks and nine rebounds. Judkins said he was impressed with her play inside the paint.
“Hamson is a force inside,” Judkins said. “A couple of those blocks were pretty impressive tonight.”
Steed, who moved up in the BYU record books tonight for assists, said the team was definitely nervous to start out the game.
“Whenever you start a big game like that, of course there is going to be jitters,” Steed said. “Both teams were jittery and crazy. It was good to get that first timeout and sit down and relax.”
The Cougars definitely found their groove throughout the game and the seniors helped the team finish strong. Kristen Riley earned her fourth double-double in five games, with 10 rebounds and 11 points. Senior teammate, Dani Peterson also came up big off of the glass to tie her career high of 10 rebounds. Peterson said the team came out strong and set a precedent for the game.
“We had momentum,” Peterson said. “We threw the first punch and they backed down. It was a good tone for us to come out strong in the beginning.”
The Cougars next game will be against San Fransisco on Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. the Marriott Center.