LAS VEGAS – The BYU women’s team jumped out to an early lead on Pacific and never looked back, winning 77-64 in the WCC Semifinals to advance to the WCC Championship game against Gonzaga tomorrow.
While the Tigers collapsed on WCC Player of the Year Jennifer Hamson in the post to take away any scoring opportunities, the Cougars found outside shooters all around the perimeter, making 11 of 23 three-pointers, including 6 for 11 in the first half. The lead ballooned to 18 before Pacific called a timeout.
“I’m really proud of these guys,” BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said. “We started the game really well. Pacific is a really good team and they should go somewhere this postseason. But this team knows how to win and they figure it out.”
The Cougars’ two leading scorers, Hamson and Lexi Eaton, got in foul trouble early in the first half with three fouls apiece and were seated on the bench with eight minutes still to go in the first half. But scoring came from unlikely sources, balancing the Cougar ship.
Kylie Maeda and Stephanie Rovetti, who combine to average 6.3 points per game led the Cougar charge today with a combined 22 points, including four baskets from beyond the arc.
“They took the challenge and took what the defense gave them,” Judkins said. “They stepped up to the plate. If you asked me if those two were going to score 27, I would have told you you were crazy. That’s what’s so good about these guys.”
However, Maeda and Rovetti were not the only Cougars to score in double figures – five BYU players each scored 10 or more. In addition to Rovetti’s 15 and Maeda’s 12, Kim Beeston added 12 on four three-pointers, Eaton scored 14 and Hamson contributed 10 points and 8 rebounds before fouling out.
The Tigers were led by KiKi Moore, who scored 26 points, before she also fouled out. Moore was the only Tiger to score in double figures, as the Cougars held leading scorer Kendall Kenyon to five points and Madison Parrish to just four.
BYU, who shot 52 percent from the floor, will need to be just as effective in its shooting percentages as it takes on Gonzaga tomorrow afternoon. The Bulldogs defeated the Saint Mary’s Gaels 68-60 in the other semifinals. The Bulldogs’ leading scorer Haiden Palmer scored 16, while Shelby Cheslek added 11 points and 14 rebounds.
In the first game between the two teams in Spokane, Wash., Gonzaga beat BYU 58-42 behind 20 points from Sunny Greinacher, while Hamson was limited with foul trouble and scored only five points in 13 minutes before fouling out.
However, in the second game in Provo, Hamson played in significantly more time, scoring 20 points and grabbing eight rebounds, while Eaton and Morgan Bailey added 15 and 14 points respectively. Beeston said winning the battle of the boards and staying out of foul trouble is key to winning the championship.
“Gonzaga is a great team,” she said. “They have great bigs and people who can shoot and drive. Team defense, really looking to play an inside-out game and shutting down their bigs will be key. The last time we played, they got a lot of offensive rebounds, so we need to shut that down and really box out. I think if we can do those things, we can be successful.”
The championship game between the two teams will tip off tomorrow at 1 p.m. PST.
BYU jumps out to early lead, pinpoint 3-point shooting. Made 6-11 from 3, while ballooning the lead to 18. Kylie Maeda, who scores 4 points per game on average, had 11 in first half, including 3-4 from distance. Beeston also had 3-4 from there.
Officials monitored game closely, handing out 22 total fouls in first half – average of more than one foul per minute of play. But it hurt the Cougars more than the Tigers. Hamson and Eaton both sat with three fouls apiece with still 8 minutes to play in the first half.
After the 4-minute mark on a Maeda 3, Pacific called timeout. With the two main scorers on BYU bench, Pacific rallied for an 8-1 run in the final four minutes, closing the gap to 11 by halftime. 35-24.
But BYU shot 56.5 percent from floor and 54.5 percent from 3, while Pacific shot 29.4 and 27.3 percent from the same respectively. Neither team shot free throws well – Pacific only made 1 in first half on just two attempts, while the Cougars shot a dismal 3 of 9 from the charity stripe.