BYU defeats Pepperdine behind a strong defensive effort

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A strong defensive effort helped the BYU women’s basketball team take down Pepperdine in the Marriott Center on Saturday.

The Cougars started with a 6-0 lead and never looked back. BYU appeared a little tired at times, but the team fought to win 68-42.

“This team doesn’t want excuses,” BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said, commenting on the team’s sluggishness from traveling. “Pepperdine had to do the same thing. I thought we came out early in the game pretty good. We just have to be more consistent.”

After guard Shay Cooney-Williams ended the first half on a buzzer beater, Pepperdine started the second half with back-to-back three-pointers by Cooney-Williams to cut BYU’s lead down to five. Guard Kim Beeston answered for BYU with her own pair of back-to-back threes after struggling in the first half to get the momentum back for the Cougars.

“Kim knows better to give (Cooney-Williams) a three,” Judkins said. “Kim is a gutty player. She knows what she needs to do. I challenged her at half. She came down and took them confidently.”

The Cougars had balanced scoring with four players in double digits.

Pepperdine’s leading scorer, Cooney-Williams, was held to only eight points on 3-6 shooting. She averages 10.8 points per game.

“(Coach Judkins) challenged (guard Xojian Harry) to guard her at the beginning of the game,” Beeston said of guarding Cooney-Williams. “Everyone that guarded her tonight took her out of what she likes to do.”

Harry finished the game with five points and four rebounds.

Guard Haley Steed led the team with nine assists. She is first in the nation in assists, and BYU as a team is 13th in the nation in assists.

“I don’t know what we would do without Haley,” Beeston said. “Our whole team revolves around her on and off the court.”

“This team has so many weapons,” Steed said. “When you have four other players around you who can score, it makes it much easier to pass. These guys make my job really, really easy.”

Forward Jennifer Hamson, who came straight from finishing the season on BYU’s women’s volleyball team to playing on the basketball team, had a big defensive game with nine rebounds and one steal.

“I think this team is really proud of (Hamson),” Steed said. “As this season goes on, she’ll get into a more basketball rhythm. As valuable as she is on offense, I could argue she’s even more valuable on defense.”

Hamson recently dislocated her finger at practice, but she did not let it affect her. She had five of the eight blocks for the Cougars.

“I think she’s getting her timing back,” Steed said. “I think volleyball really helps her in that aspect. It doesn’t feel good to get blocked by (Hamson). It’s a huge boost for our team on the defensive end.”

BYU improved to 11-5 and 3-0 in West Coast Conference play. The Cougars will travel to Spokane, Wash., on Thursday to play Gonzaga.

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