The BYU Women’s basketball team is headed to the second round of West Coast Conference tournament play after defeating the Loyola Marymount Lions 69–57 Friday afternoon at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
“I told the ladies that this was going to be their night. … I’m really happy for our team,” BYU coach Jeff Judkins said. “We kind of struggled against (LMU) a week ago, but I thought everybody stepped it up tonight.”
The first half kicked off with sophomore Jennifer Hamson winning the tip. Despite an early lead, the Cougars hit a dry streak on offense, giving the Lions the opportunity to take over the game. LMU’s Danielle Pruitt had the hot hand, and the Lions’ post players dominated inside.
The game was physical from the start, with both teams fighting for loose balls. An early jump ball left Hamson with a gash on her right arm. After four minutes without scoring, junior Stephanie Seaborn took over, drilling four three-pointers from the outside wing. LMU’s defense started to break down, and the Cougars finished the first half with a nine-point lead.
“(Coach) Judkins emphasized that we were going to get shots,” Seaborn said. “The nice thing about this team is that we don’t care who is taking them.”
The Cougars were out-rebounded in the first half 22-18, but had a better field goal and three-point shooting percentage. The Cougars were 6-16 from beyond the arc in the first half and shot 41.9 percent while the Lions were just 1-7 from three-point range and had a 33.3 percent field goal percentage.
“We took a lot of three’s tonight, but that’s what they gave us,” Judkins said. “We also got the ball inside when we needed to.”
Physical play resumed in the second half with Haley Steed getting slapped in the face and then, two plays later, junior Kim Parker Beeston getting fouled hard in the paint.
“They tried to take (Steed) out of the game, but the nice thing about Haley is that she lets the game come to her. … She doesn’t force it,” Judkins said.
The aggressive play by the Lions was not enough as they struggled to find an answer for Hamson on defense. Steed continued to feed Hamson in the paint. LMU was faced with problems on defense due to the clear match-up advantage Hamson had over LMU’s center, Mackenzie Kerins.
BYU started to run away with the game as Beeston continued to hit big shots from the three-point area. LMU tried to make a comeback late but ultimately had its WCC tournament dreams dashed as BYU continued to play strong.
Seaborn was the leading scorer for the Cougars with 21 points all from beyond the arc. Close behind her was Hamson, who had a double-double, scoring 19 points and bringing down 13 rebounds.
“I try to pull some of the defense down to my side, so when a shot goes up I can be in a position to rebound for them,” Hamson said.
BYU will take on the Gonzaga Bulldogs, who were regular season champions on Saturday in the semifinal round. The Cougars have not beat the Bulldogs yet this season. For live game updates, follow @dusportsdesk on Twitter.
“Gonzaga runs their stuff, and they execute very well,” Judkins said. “The advantage (Gonzaga) has is that they are rested, but the disadvantage they have is that they haven’t played in a week. We are going to have to play a good game. … We’ll be ready.”