BYU women’s basketball won their first outright WCC regular-season title and 15th consecutive game with a 68-60 victory over San Diego Thursday night.
With a record of 15-1 in conference, the Cougars broke Gonzaga’s 11 straight regular-season title streak and will enter the WCC Championship as the defending champions.
“What a night. We’ve been waiting for this for a long time,” said BYU head coach Jeff Judkins. “I’m very grateful for this season so far and for these girls and what they have accomplished.”
The Cougars’ only loss in conference this season was to San Diego in December. With that in mind, BYU was prepared for the rematch and was ready to win the conference title.
“We lost our first game of the league and got pounded pretty good by San Diego. I remember walking out of there and telling my team ‘hey we’re going to win this conference’ and that was the start of us getting better. They took it to heart,” Judkins said.
Lexi Eaton Rydalch led the Cougars’ offensive drive with 33 points. She has scored more than 30 points in four games this season. Kalani Purcell earned her 15th double-double of the season with 13 points and 12 rebounds.
“It worked out perfectly to end on our home court to win it all. It couldn’t be more special,” Rydalch said.
Kylie Maeda scored her season average five points within the first four minutes of the game. The Cougars forced seven turnovers on the Toreros and went on a 9-0 run. San Diego answered with a quick scoring burst but BYU managed to clinch a two point lead at the end of the first quarter.
“It was the game we needed tonight. Ugly, tough, and physical,” Judkins said of the Toreros strong defense.
Rydalch drilled a 3-pointer with eight minutes to go in the second quarter to boost BYU’s lead to five. The Cougars nailed three field goals in a row but the Toreros fought back and held BYU to an almost three-minute scoring drought. The Cougars struggled to step up as Purcell sat out with three fouls.
Then, as Judkins called the play, Rydalch banked a jump shot at the buzzer to give BYU a 30-29 advantage entering halftime.
“It was big,” Rydalch said. “It’s important to end the first half with momentum and that set the tone for the second half.”
The Cougars still couldn’t shake San Diego in the third quarter. Rydalch nailed another shot from the arc and earned a free-throw shot to give the Cougars a four point lead. Seconds later Makenzi Morrison Pulsipher drilled a 3-pointer to bump the lead to seven. The Cougars finished the third quarter ahead 49-46.
Rydalch opened the fourth quarter with yet another 3-pointer and the Cougars were on fire. Purcell added a jump shot to give BYU an eight point lead. The Cougars went on a 6-0 run over a minute and a half to build a 12 point lead. BYU made their last four consecutive field goals, three made by Rydalch, to take home the eight point victory.
A record of 2,293 fans came out to support the Cougars, the most for a home conference game this season, as seniors Lexi Eaton Rydalch and Kylie Maeda were honored.
The Cougars finished the season undefeated at home for the first time since the 1979-1980 season.
BYU hits the road next week for their final two conference match-ups against Portland and Gonzaga before heading to the WCC Tournament.
“We’ve got two more games and we’d like to take care of them and go to the tournament with a high,” Judkins said.