Las Vegas • Despite having the most dominant player in the West Coast Conference on both ends of the floor, BYU’s women’s basketball players got where they are this season with a team-first approach, coach Jeff Judkins has said time and again.
That was more than evident Friday as WCC Player of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year Jennifer Hamson played an average game by her standards — 13 points, 12 rebounds and three blocked shots — and the Cougars still routed overmatched Pepperdine 77-51 in a WCC tournament quarterfinal game at Orleans Arena.
“They really [symbolize] the word team,” Judkins said as the Cougars improved to 25-5 and advanced to Monday’s 3:30 p.m. MST semifinal against Pacific. “That’s who they are. They don’t care who gets the glory. They just go out there and play together.”
With Hamson in a tiny bit of foul trouble, Lexi Eaton, Morgan Bailey, Kim Beeston and Ashley Garfield picked up the slack, and Xojian Harry and Stephanie Rovetti contributed off the bench. Eaton and Bailey led all scorers with 17 points apiece, while Beeston chipped in 10 points and seven assists and Bailey had eight rebounds.
Garfield snagged 13 boards and Harry made a pair of 3-pointers.
“It was a great win,” said Eaton, who missed last year’s tournament after suffering a season-ending knee injury early in the year. “I think today we made a good statement for ourselves. We played really well defensively, and when we play well defensively as a team — because we can score whenever we want — we are a hard team to beat.”
Pepperdine (6-25) shot just 26 percent from the field (18 of 69), a number that was closer to 20 until the Waves made their last four shots. The Cougars led by as many as 34 points before Judkins cleared his bench with five minutes to go.
He did that hesitantly, he said, because the Cougars were playing just their second game in two weeks, and looked rusty in stretches.
They committed 21 turnovers — Pepperdine’s Ea Shoustari set a tournament record with eight steals — and took a little time to heat up from the field.
“We were a little out of sync today,” Judkins acknowledged. “We threw some passes that we thought were open that weren’t open. I think that’s just [not] playing. … You can’t have 21 turnovers in a game. In order to beat the teams that are right there with us, we need to get more shots at the basket.”
Pacific got off 18 more shots than BYU, which was 23 of 51 (45 percent), but the Cougars won the rebounding battle 57-30 and outscored the Waves 30-12 in the paint.
“Wow, that’s a heckuva team right there in BYU,” said Pepperdine coach Ryan Weisenberg, who doesn’t have a senior on his roster. “We went into a gunfight with a knife. That never works.”
The Cougars barely broke a sweat in rolling out to a 42-22 halftime lead, shooting 45.8 percent from the field and holding the Waves to 23.5 percent.
Hamson went to the bench with BYU leading 28-12 with 6:13 left in the first half, but Bailey, Beeston and Harry made big shots to keep the Waves at bay.
“Obviously we want to put ourselves in a great position so we can go to the NCAA Tournament, whether we win it or whether we don’t,” Harry said of BYU’s goals. “I think coming in with the mindset of being tough and working together, that will get us far.”
BYU 77, Pepperdine 51
R Lexi Eaton and Morgan Bailey score 17 points apiece as BYU opens the WCC women’s tournament with an easy win over last-place Pepperdine.
• The Cougars hold Pepperdine to 26.1 percent shooting and overcome 21 turnovers with a 57-30 rebounding advantage.
• Pepperdine’s Ea Shoustari sets a tournament record with eight steals.