Las Vegas • Like so many others before him, BYU women’s basketball coach Jeff Judkins gambled and lost in Sin City on Monday afternoon.
Good thing for the Cougars that role players such as Kim Beeston, Kylie Maeda and Stephanie Rovetti were there to hit the jackpot.
BYU 77, Pacific 64Five Cougars reach double figures in scoring for the first time this season, led by Lexi Eaton’s 17 points.
» The Cougars advance to the championship game for the second time in three years.
Five Cougars scored in double figures for the first time this season and BYU outlasted Pacific 77-64 in a West Coast Conference semifinal game at Orleans Arena.
The second-seeded Cougars, who just might have punched their NCAA Tournament ticket with the wire-to-wire win that avenged an earlier loss and pushed their overall record to 26-5, will meet No. 1 seed Gonzaga at 2 p.m. MDT on Tuesday (ESPNU) for the tournament title.
"As I said last time here, this team knows how to win," Judkins said. "They figure it out. Somebody does it."
The Cougars and Zags split their regular-season meetings, each team winning at home. Gonzaga will enjoy a home-crowd advantage, with thousands of red and blue-clad fans having made their way south and packing the arena for their men’s team as well as their women’s squad.
"It is going to be a real dogfight," Judkins said.
Monday, the Cougars never trailed and led by as many as 18 points in the first half, but could never really breathe easy because star center Jennifer Hamson picked up her third foul with around 10 minutes left in the first half and BYU leading 26-11 and star guard Lexi Eaton followed her to the bench a minute later with three fouls and the score at 29-11.
Unlike men’s coach Dave Rose and most other coaches, Judkins doesn’t always pull his players when they get two fouls in the first half.
"A lot of people think I am crazy, sometimes, when I do that," he said. "I took a chance, and it backfired on me. … I am a strong believer in playing your cards."
The Cougars weathered the storm because point guard Kylie Maeda picked up the scoring slack, finishing with 12 points. Stephanie Rovetti scored 10 off the bench and helped shut down Pacific star Kiki Moore in the second half, although the senior still finished with a game-high 26 before fouling out.
"If you had told me that [Rovetti and Maeda] were going to score  tonight, I would have told you that you were crazy," Judkins said.
Eaton scored 15 of her team-high 17 in the second half, and Hamson finished with 11 points and eight rebounds after posting just 4 and 2 in her eight first-half minutes. Fellow senior Kim Beeston added 12, including nine in the first half.
"We talked before the game about having [players] one through 15 being ready to play, just because we know Pacific is a good team, and they like to drive a lot, which can create fouls for your team," Beeston said. "Everyone stepped up."
A win is a win, the Cougars said, then added that they will have to play better to get the NCAA automatic bid that will be handed out to the winner on Tuesday.
Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.