BYU faces West Coast Conference foe Gonzaga

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The BYU women’s basketball team travels to Spokane, Wash., to battle the Gonzaga Bulldogs on Thursday night in their only West Coast Conference game of the week.

The Cougars (12-4) remain undefeated in WCC play after taking down Pepperdine in the Marriott Center on Saturday. Gonzaga (13-5) are 3-1 against WCC opponents and hope to build off of their latest win against Portland.

“(Head coach Kelly Graves) has good players,” said BYU head coach Jeff Judkins. “They’re very well rounded. I feel like we’re kind of playing against ourselves.”

Lexi Eaton clears her way to the basket during the WCC Finals game against Gonzaga.

While Gonzaga looks to repeat as WCC regular season champions, BYU has been selected by the league’s coaches to likely finish first. After splitting the regular season games against each other last year, BYU defeated the Bulldogs 78-66 in the championship game of the WCC tournament. The Cougars look forward to playing Gonzaga again this season.

“This is a big game for us,” said center Jennifer Hamson. “We split with them last year. But when we play our game and when we play our best, we are pretty hard to beat.”

BYU’s one loss against Gonzaga last year was in the McCarthey Athletic Center, or as it is often called “The Kennel,” which is the Bulldogs’ home court. The Kennel holds 6,000 people and is notorious for being crowded and loud. As difficult as it is to play in Spokane, it is fun for guard Haley Steed to play in an environment as exciting as The Kennel.

“It’s a fun atmosphere to be a part of,” Steed said. “You don’t find that very often in women’s basketball that a team can sell out a stadium like that.”

A key match-up in this game will be the two guards. Steed is BYU’s starting guard and averages 8.6 points and 7.8 assists. Gonzaga will counter Steed with Haiden Palmer, who averages 12.7 points and 3 steals.

“This year their guards are more the scorers,” Judkins said. “We’re going to have to defend the guards a lot better and take advantage of our size inside.”

Palmer scored a career-high 28 points in Gonzaga’s loss to BYU in the WCC championship game. She led her team to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen last season.

BYU looks to continue their nine game win streak as they tip-off against Gonzaga in Spokane at 6:00 p.m. PST. Fans can follow along with the game by listening to BYU radio.

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