The BYU women’s basketball team proved they are ready to go far in the WNIT by defeating Idaho State 69–54 in the Marriott Center on Wednesday night.
In this first-round WNIT match-up, the Cougars (22–10) were led by a career-high 25 points from center Jennifer Hamson, who also grabbed 12 rebounds. The Bengals (18–13) were not big enough to handle the height and strength of the Cougars.
“It was nice to get a win tonight,” BYU coach Jeff Judkins said. “The girls did what they needed to do, and I’m proud of them. Our size was a huge advantage tonight.”
The first half of the game was close. Neither team was able to pull away with a commanding lead. Idaho State was shooting lights out from beyond the arc, making five of seven attempts from three. Although the Cougars made just two threes in the first half, they outscored the Bengals in the paint 18–4. BYU had the 34–27 lead over Idaho State at halftime.
The Bengals came out in the second half continuing to fight but then got cold. Meanwhile, Hamson and the Cougars rolled on, extending their lead, and they never looked back.
“I felt like we did a pretty good job in the first 30 minutes, we went back and forth,” Idaho State coach Seton Sobolewski said. “We cut it to three with about 10 minutes to go, then we really hit a cold spell where we couldn’t make shots. I thought Jennifer Hamson did a great job of getting low post positioning. I thought her teammates did a great job finding her.”
When it got close, guard Haley Steed’s competitive spirit took over and got BYU back in control. Despite playing for all but two minutes of the game, the senior was not worn out. She had another great game, scoring 20 points while grabbing six rebounds and dishing out nine assists.
“Haley is one of the best competitors I’ve been around,” Judkins said. “Haley’s a great player, but probably what we’re going to miss the most next year is her will to win, her will to not give up no matter what the situation is.”
BYU’s presence in the paint was clearly an issue for Idaho State. The Cougars had 22 second-chance points, 19 more than the Bengals. The rebounding effort by BYU was also successful as it out-rebounded Idaho State 47–35, 17 of which were offensive boards for the Cougars.
The bench was crucial to this win. Although four of the bench players combined for 13 of the Cougars’ points, the bench made big plays outside of shooting. Guard Ashley Garfield grabbed nine rebounds and also had four assists.
“I thought tonight Ashley Garfield came in and played really well,” Judkins said. “I thought Xojian (Harry) right now is struggling with her offense, but I thought defensively she really denied and was really aggressive … I thought the bench tonight was probably one of their best performances in a long time.”
The Cougars advance to the second round of the WNIT with this win.
“This is a tournament, (and) a lot of teams aren’t in a tournament right now,” Steed said. “So if we’re in a tournament, we’re going to do our best to go as far as we can. We’re excited to be playing, and we’re not taking it lightly.”
BYU will play former Mountain West Conference foe San Diego State in the Marriott Center on Saturday at 2 p.m.