Paisley Harding shoots against Santa Clara. (Decker Westenburg)

No. 16 BYU women’s hoops slaughters Santa Clara 76-44

The main act for Thursday’s edition of “the greatest show on earth” was defense, as No. 16 BYU shut down Santa Clara 76-44 to earn its ninth-straight victory.

The Cougars started the night a bit slower than usual, trailing briefly before an abrupt 7-0 run in the first quarter put them ahead for good. A Bronco basket with 4:46 left in the first put the score at 13-9, only to be followed by an eight-minute scoring drought for Santa Clara.

In that same span, the Cougars scored 18 unanswered points. BYU ran circles around the Broncos and couldn’t be stopped.

“We love to compete, and that’s why we win and why we’re good,” guard Tegan Graham said. “We each know our role, and we do it well.”

BYU enjoyed its most dominant defensive outing of the campaign, swiping 16 steals— 11 coming in the opening half— and capitalizing for 23 points from turnovers. The Broncos shot a dismal 33% from the field and coughed up 23 turnovers as a hyper-focused Cougar defense pounced all over their scheme to provide constant disruption.

“Defensively we were really aggressive with the ball screens and were good with our rotations,” head coach Jeff Judkins said. “It’s a great team effort, and they’re all buying into each other.”

Graham led the scoring charge for the Cougars with 16 points, while Shaylee Gonzales posted 13 points with a team season-high nine assists and five steals. Paisley Harding added 11 points and Lauren Gustin grabbed 11 rebounds.

“Paisley is a money player, and so is Shaylee,” Judkins said. “(Tegan’s) defense has really improved in these past few weeks.”

BYU’s young bench added timely contributions to the win as well, with Nani Falatea, Rose Bubakar and Kaylee Smiler combining for 16 points and each hitting threes.

“We probably have the best bench in the league, and we proved it tonight,” Judkins said.

The BYU bench celebrates a basket against Santa Clara in the Marriott Center. (Decker Westenburg)

The Cougars ended up shooting 46% on the night, with 12 players finding the scoreboard and eight scoring from behind the arc.

“When they changed defenses, we did a good job not letting that slow us down,” Judkins said.

The West Coast Conference’s team to beat moves to an undefeated 7-0 mark in conference play and 17-1 overall, BYU’s best start in program history. The Cougars face off with San Francisco in Provo this Saturday at 2 p.m.

“I think at home we’re way more aggressive, and that helps a lot,” Judkins said. “If we play our game, we can beat anybody.”

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