Las Vegas – Ea Shoushtari’s career-high 30 points led the Pepperdine Waves women’s basketball team to an 80-74 win against the Santa Clara Broncos in the first round of the West Coast Conference tournament in Las Vegas. After finishing at the bottom of conference standings with only one win in WCC play, Pepperdine was able to come out on top, advancing to the second round to face BYU Friday.
“Towards the end, they made huge plays and big shots, and unfortunately we came out on the wrong end of that one,” Santa Clara head coach Jennifer Mountain said.
BYU triumphed in both conference games against Pepperdine this season, winning 65-50 in Provo and 89-75 in Malibu, Calif.
“We had our hands full with them both times– we beat them, but they shot the ball really well down at Pepperdine,” BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said. “We can’t let them get to the basket easy; we need to make them take tough shots.”
In the first meeting, Pepperdine freshman Allie Green had 19 points and BYU sophomore Lexi Eaton led the Cougars with 18. On the February 20 contest, Eaton led all scorers with 25 points and Ea Shoushtari had 23 for the Waves.
Grace Leah Baughn, who scored 19 points and grabbed six rebounds in Pepperdine’s win against Santa Clara today, said the key to playing BYU will be rebounding.
“We won the boards tonight and that was a big thing for us, so with bigger players (like Jennifer Hamson) we’re definitely going to need to rebound,” Baughn said.
Pepperdine head coach Ryan Weisenberg is aware of the challenges 6’7″ senior center Hamson poses to his smaller team.
“We have to attack her; get her into foul trouble if we can,” Weisenberg said. “We can’t settle for jumpers, that’s what plays right into their hands.”
Pepperdine’s win over Santa Clara shows the level of competition within the WCC– Judkins said it could be anyone’s game on any given day at the Orleans Arena.
“Whichever team comes out and plays the best and plays together will be successful, and we’ve been playing about as good as we’ve been playing right now,” Judkins said. “I just tell my team to be positive and keep doing the things that we’ve been doing the last month and a half; a lot of them have really stepped it up.”
The Cougars beat the Gonzaga Bulldogs for the West Coast Conference Championship during the 2011-12 season and are looking to win their second title in three years, attempting to dethrone the normally dominant Bulldogs.
The Cougars’ impressive play in recent months has turned heads, with four players earning conference honors. Hamson became the first player in the history of the conference to be named the WCC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season. Lexi Eaton was named to the All-West Coast Conference Team, and senior guard Kim Beeston and junior forward Morgan Bailey were both awarded Honorable Mention.
BYU faces Pepperdine at 2 p.m. PST Friday March 6 at the Orleans Arena.