LAS VEGAS — Cougar fans were heard loud and clear in The Orleans arena as the women stepped unto the court to take on the San Diego Toreros in the semifinal game of the WCC basketball tournament.
BYU won the game 64-46, advancing them to the final round against Gonzaga, at 1 p.m. MST Monday. This will their first appearance in the WCC championship game.
“I’m just proud of my team,” BYU coach Jeff Judkins said. “I’m lucky, I have good players.”
Things started off fierce as USD senior Dominique Conners got two easy points from free throws. Freshman Lexi Eaton would have none of that and made a three at the shot clock buzzer on the next possession. The Toreros went man to man trying to throw off the Cougar’s usual drive quickly up the court. BYU struggled to break the defense. The Toreros also gave it their all on offense, keeping the Cougars active on both ends of the court.
[easyembed field=”Photogallery”]Things were a bit sluggish as the Coug’s shots weren’t falling. Thanks to the Eaton’s aggressiveness both on defense and offense, and a three beyond the arc shot by senior Haley Steed, things changed.
A loud crowd of students and boosters added noise to the arena along with help form the cheer squad and Cougar pep band. Officials including President Cecil Samuelson also attended the game.
The team kicked up their offense and Eaton had 13 points in the first half. Senior Kristen Riley grabbed seven rebounds and had five points in the first half. BYU went into the half with an eight point lead.
BYU came out of the locker room and put the game away. They pulled ahead of the Toreros, finishing the game with a solid 18-point lead.
Eaton proved that she’s got a full-throttle career ahead of her. She led the team 26 points and six rebounds, marking a career high in points. Her freshman title meaning nothing but more great ball to come.
“She’s got some confidence that not a lot of freshmen have,” Riley said about Eaton. “That’s what we needed tonight. We needed someone to take over and get the jitters out of us and she did that.”
Another young player who was a major threat, sophomore Jennifer Hamson. She had 10 points and nine rebounds.
“I thought Jen came in the second half and played way more aggressive,” Judkins said. “That was a key to our game today.”
Gonzaga will be the team to beat, and BYU is ready to play for the championship.
“The last time we played them I feel like we weren’t ready to play,” Eaton said. “We’re all just ready for them, we want to throw the first punch, put them back on their heels and play like we know how to play.”