LAS VEGAS – No. 1 BYU defeated No. 9 Pepperdine in the quarterfinals of the WCC tournament Friday afternoon led by Lexi Eaton Rydalch and Kalani Purcell.
Rydalch bounced back after scoring only eight points against Gonzaga last week to lead the Cougars in scoring and rebounding with 28 points and 12 rebounds.
Purcell put up a career-high 19 points and added 11 rebounds to record her 17th double-double of the season.
BYU head coach Jeff Judkins was impressed with the way his team came together, despite a cold start.
“Tonight wasn’t the best that we’ve played, but as a team we’ve learned to play together and play the game that we needed,” Judkins said. “I thought Kalani had a really great second half for us. She was a tough match-up with her inside presence and getting down low.”
Both teams struggled to find offensive rhythm at the beginning of the game. The Cougars only shot 27 percent from the field but it was enough to tie the score 14-14 at the end of the first quarter.
Pepperdine was missing two of its best players and didn’t score in the second quarter for the first seven-plus minutes. That gave BYU time to step up and drill a series of shots to increase the lead to 13 points.
“After not starting the best, and going into half time after talking with our coaches, they told us things we needed to improve and we came out with a more determined mind set. That showed in our defense,” Purcell said.
The Cougars had 30-20 advantage at the start of the second half and came out hot in the second half. Rydalch continued to spark BYU’s momentum with three consecutive baskets. The Cougars followed with a 12-0 run at the end of the third quarter to generate a 20-point lead.
Within minutes of the start of the fourth, BYU tallied a 27-point lead. Pepperdine fought back and outscored BYU during the last quarter, but the Cougars held on for a 72-59 victory.
BYU advances to the semifinals to play the Santa Clara Broncos on Monday at 1 p.m. PST. The game will be broadcast on BYUtv and BYUradio.
The Cougars swept this season’s series over the Broncos with a 68-63 victory in California and a 70-63 victory at home. No. 4 Santa Clara defeated Gonzaga 59-58 in the first round of the WCC tournament.