BYU women’s basketball finished its regular season on a high note, logging a six game winning streak. The Cougars scraped by with a 69-64 win over Santa Clara University March 2, bringing their 2019 regular season record to 23-6.
Back in the Marriott Center for the team’s final week of WCC play, the team hosted San Francisco on Feb. 28. Holding a 21-6 record compared to UCSF’s 6-21 record, the Cougars dominated the Dons with a 82-59 win.
Hoping to use the momentum of a five game winning streak, BYU hosted conference rival Santa Clara University on March 2. Earlier this season on Dec. 29, the Cougars beat SCU on its home turf 54-44.
Holding a 2-16 record against the Cougars, the Broncos have never won in the Marriott Center. SCU’s two victories against BYU came once in 1998 and another in 2016.
Within the first 39 seconds of the game, SCU posted a three-pointer, putting the score at 3-0. However, these two minutes early in the game would account for nearly half of the Broncos’ 4:34 minutes of total lead time.
Paisley Johnson scored points in the paint and on a three-pointer, giving the Cougars an early 5-3 lead. BYU ran a 9-0 run while SCU fell into a scoring drought of over four minutes.
Going into the later stages of the first half, the Cougars allowed the Broncos to catch up, leading the teams to ping pong the advantage back-and-forth. However, once Shaylee Gonzales hit a free throw and propelled the team to a 28-25 lead, BYU maintained its lead for the remainder of the game.
Within the first five minutes of the second half, the Cougars managed 13 points. This would add to BYU’s largest lead of the night, a 17 point advantage over SCU.
SCU’s flaw proved to be the team’s 19 personal fouls, with 14 of those coming in the second half alone. One of the standout players of the night, sophomore Sara Hamson, made all ten of her free throws.
This success on Hamson’s part can be attributed to Judkins’ daily practice routine. In order to leave after training, he requires each player to make nine out of ten free throws. Seeing as Hamson hit all ten of her ten opportunities, Judkins’ strategy is working.
“Sarah is usually one of the last, but she does it,” Judkins said. “Her hard work and dedication paid off tonight. These points from the foul line helped the center player log a new career high of 18 points.”
As for Hamson, she mentioned getting in a grove during practice the day before.
“Something just clicked and thank goodness it did,” Hamson said. “I got 10 for 10 before we left yesterday and conveniently, here we are, 10 for 10 today.”
Judkins commented on the increase in Hamson’s performance over the past several weeks, specifically in regards to her timing and “being at the right spot at the right time.”
“It was one of the best games she’s ever played,” Judkins said. “She had block shots today that nobody else in the country could have made. People are pulling off a jump shot and she’s blocking it.”
A turnover with under ten minutes remaining proved to be the start of SCU taking over. The gap steadily decreased as the Broncos pulled within eight. In the final seconds, SCU climbed six points but BYU still pulled off a 67-64 win.
Judkins attributes these close wins to the fact his team is still young and in the learning process.
“I got a young team and I gotta do a better job of telling them the situations, like when you’re up, you don’t give people threes,” Judkins said. “You make people score two point baskets so they can’t get back so fast.”
Winning their last five games against SCU, Judkins felt confident heading into the game, but the fact that SCU logged 25 points in the fourth period, nearly doubling their prior efforts, made him uneasy.
“This team is a lot of fun to coach and I’m really happy,” head coach Jeff Judkins said. “It was one of those games that I knew as a coach that we could beat them, but man it was scary.”
After celebrating the team’s final win in the Marriott Center this season, the mood became bittersweet as BYU’s two seniors, Caitlyn Alldredge and MaCayla Hanks Longson, received recognition. The seniors were presented to the crowd with their husbands and families and couldn’t hold back their tears.
After playing for BYU softball for four years and earning the WCC Player of the Year in 2017, Alldredge decided to follow one of her dreams: college basketball.
“Did I know that when I heard that she wanted to come from softball that she would be sitting here, doing what she’s doing right now?” Judkins said. “No, I would’ve told you that you were crazy.”
Although only eligible for one year, the point guard made an impression on Judkins through her competitive spirit.
“Caitlyn is the perfect player to have on your team because she’s athletic, she’s smart, she’s tough and she’s a gamer,” Judkins said. “She doesn’t care about anything else but winning.”
While winning is the ultimate goal, Gonzales mentioned another motivation the young team had in mind.
“We wanted to do it for our seniors,” Gonzales said. “They’ve been around for a long time and they’ve been helping us, so it’s awesome that we could win that game for them.”
The journey isn’t over as Alldredge and her teammates head to the 2019 UCU WCC Women’s Basketball Championships in Las Vegas.