LLOYD: BYU women dominate inside, vindicate last season's poor performance against Gonzaga

BYU women's basketball
2012-02-09T22:10:00Z 2013-11-06T21:45:17Z LLOYD: BYU women dominate inside, vindicate last season's poor performance against GonzagaJared Lloyd - Daily Herald Daily Herald
February 09, 2012 10:10 pm  • 

Before BYU senior forward Dani Peterson even started watching film to prepare for No. 18 Gonzaga, she already had a vivid image in her mind from the last meeting with the Bulldogs.

"I could see (Kayla) Standish hitting this shot on me," Peterson recalled. "It was a rough game, one we tried to forget but you can't when someone beats you as bad as they did."

The memory of the 91-64 loss at Gonzaga on Dec. 21, 2010 may never completely be erased - but BYU women's basketball team's 70-40 victory Thursday night certainly provided some vindication.

"That was in the back of all of our minds," said Cougar senior guard Haley Steed. "It's really nice to get this win."

Peterson said she thought that having seen Standish score 22 points in that blowout loss actually prepared her for the next meeting.

"It helped me guarding her because I knew what she liked to do," she explained. "I didn't want it to be like last year."

BYU made sure it was completely the opposite of the previous meeting and a lot of the credit had to go to Peterson and her post-player teammates senior Kristen Riley and sophomore Jennifer Hamson.

"Our bigs had their hands full tonight," said Cougar head coach Jeff Judkins. "They had to guard the post, come out on the pick, get back on the release, then box out after long shots. Our three posts players did as good of a job as I've ever seen. It was a great effort and I'm really proud of them."

Those three players not only played great defense, they also totaled 29 rebounds to pace BYU to a plus-seven rebounding margin over Gonzaga, the best rebounding team in the West Coast Conference. Peterson and Riley had 10 each while Hamson was one back with nine.

"Judkins challenged us," Peterson said. "We have great bigs that start and come off the bench. We were able to set the tone and out-physical them."

Steed said the performance of those interior athletes was crucial to the success the Cougars enjoyed.

"I'm so proud of them," the senior guard said. "They (the Bulldogs) have good players and our bigs did a great job not letting them get in rhythm."

Standish did finish with 12 points to lead Gonzaga but BYU countered with 14 points from Hamson and 11 from Riley.

The 6-foot-7 Hamson also contributed three blocks and affected other shots simply by her presence in the paint, a factor that completely change a game when she comes of the bench.

"It's great to have an ace in your pocket," Judkins said. "Offensively she's our best post player and our best rebounder in traffic. She definitely understands what to do and she's a force."

Peterson said it's a big boost knowing that if she needs a break, her team has players like Hamson and Riley to step in.

"I'm so confident in all of our bigs," she said. "We're really deep. Hamson gets us rebounds and I love it when she blocks a shot. It's great to be able to have teammates like that."

Hamson, for her part, says she draws on the abilities of the two seniors to help her continue to get better.

"I love Peterson and Riley because they have so much experience," she said. "I just try to learn from them."

While the Cougars have excellent guard play and some solid shooters, it's the efforts of the trio that roam the middle that make this BYU as dangerous as it is this year.

When the shots aren't falling - like they weren't in the first half against Gonzaga - the Cougars can depend on their interior defense to keep them in games.

It's a lineup that few teams in the league or the country match up well against, but the Bulldogs are certainly capable of being one of those. They just didn't show it Thursday night in Provo.

"I thought they (BYU) completely outplayed us inside," said Gonzaga head coach Kelly Graves. "I didn't think it was close."

The Cougars don't expect the Bulldogs to do the same when the two teams meet again in Spokane on Feb. 25. Both squads will certainly plan for a much more competitive game when the rematch rolls around.

For tonight, however, BYU proved it can do more than just match the inside presence of the seven-time WCC champs - they can overpower it.

At this point in the season, that's the best the Cougars could ask for.

Daily Herald sports editor Jared Lloyd can be reached at 801-344-2555 or at jlloyd@heraldextra.com. He can also be followed on Twitter at @JaredrLloyd.

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