Women’s basketball: BYU center Hamson stifles Wolfpack’s attack
Published: March 22, 2014 09:45PM
Updated: March 22, 2014 10:03PM
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BYU's Jennifer Hamson warms up during practice at the NCAA women's college basketball tournament on Friday, March 21, 2014, in Los Angeles. BYU is scheduled to play North Carolina State in a first-round game on Saturday. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

Los Angeles • She didn’t say a word, but her face showed the pain. Jennifer Hamson clasped one of her long, slender fingers and grimaced as she walked to the bench.

Not 30 minutes later, her face had long since washed away any sign of distress.

“It’s dislocated, but we popped it back in,” she said, smiling as if she were talking about the sunny California weather. “I’m all good.”

Even when things aren’t going right for her — like when she was 0-for-3 in the first half — BYU’s star finds ways to influence games. On Saturday, she did it on defense, and it helped the Cougars cruise in their first-round win.

While Hamson’s shot was unsteady, the 6-foot-7 senior’s arms got in the way of several NC State’s shots, a big reason why the Wolfpack’s starting posts were a combined 7-for-32 from the field. Her near-triple-double - with 12 points, 19 rebounds (tying a career-high) and nine blocks — was key in setting the tone for BYU’s dominance on defense.

It was telling that she maintained that presence while struggling on offense.

“My whole focus was to rebound and play defense,” she said. “I knew if we did that, we could play together as a team and we could do it together. I have great teammates who take advantage offensively when I’m not feeling it.”

Maeda steps up

While BYU’s lead ballooned to 21 points, the Cougars relaxed a little too soon perhaps.

The Wolfpack went on an 8-0 run leading into the final minutes of the game, rapidly shrinking the gap. BYU took a timeout, and it needed someone to get things rolling again.

Enter Kylie Maeda, who hit four of her 14 points in the final 2:12 of the contest.

“I was just trying to do whatever we needed,” she said of the finish to the game.. “That time we needed points. I got an open shot and I took it.”

The sophomore guard actually had one of her better games overall, hitting 5-for-6 from the field while tying a career-best 14 points and getting four rebounds with a pair of assists. While turnovers had dogged the team last time against Gonzaga, Maeda was steady against pressure, giving up only two.

kgoon@sltrib.com