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BYU cruises past Saint Mary’s, stays unbeaten in West Coast Conference

BYU is atop the conference heading into three-game road trip.

(Chuck Burton | AP) BYU's Tegan Graham (10) reacts after making a 3-point basket against Rutgers late during the second half of a college basketball game in the first round of the women's NCAA tournament last year. Graham and the Cougars are now 3-0 in West Coast Conference play — and they're making "statements" in the process.

Provo • When Maria Albiero came back for her fifth season at BYU this summer, she wanted the program to take the next step.

Naturally for BYU, that would mean getting over the proverbial hump of unseating Gonzaga for the West Coast Conference regular season title. And in order to do that, Albiero said, the Cougars had to start making “statements” rather than just skating by.

Thus far, they have.

After dispatching Saint Mary’s 78-36 on Thursday, the Cougars are 3-0 in conference play. They have won by an average of over 26 points. And BYU is now a game-and-a-half atop the standings as mid-January approaches.

“The way we have won is more important than anything,” Albiero said. “Every year we do well in conference. But I don’t think we make statements.”

“This year we have made three statements already. We are not here to play. We are here to win,” the senior added.

BYU put away Saint Mary’s quickly. It built a double-digit advantage within the first five minutes. It went up by 20 before the first quarter ended.

Paisley Harding had 18 points. Lauren Gustin added 15.

With five minutes left in the third quarter, after a Gustin layup putting BYU up 30, Saint Mary’s called its final timeout. The game would never get closer.

There will be bigger challenges ahead. BYU will on the road in San Diego next week. Gonzaga awaits in February.

But for now, BYU is in first place in the WCC. And that is where it wants to be.

“This has been many, many years of teaching, working,” BYU coach Jeff Judkins said of his assessment for where the program is. “It’s like seeing your kid practice, whether it is sports or music, and go out and perform great. You are so happy because of the hard work.”

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