A monster second half by Jennifer Hamson and the BYU women’s basketball team defense was all the Cougars needed to knock off the No. 15 Gonzaga Bulldogs 62-52 in the Marriott Center.
Though the Cougars had fallen behind 33-27 at the end of the first half while Hamson rode the bench much of the way in foul trouble, they fixed everything at halftime, coming out with intense vigor and a game plan to defeat the tough Bulldogs.
The Cougar defense and five second-half blocked shots from Hamson helped lead to a 15 percent shooting effort during the final 20 minutes by the Bulldogs, who only scored 19 total second-half points against a stingy BYU team.
“We played tough tonight. That defense was one of our best efforts. To hold that team to 52 points, knowing what a good scoring team they are, was just what we needed,” noted Cougar coach Jeff Judkins.
“The big thing today was that I could play Morgan Bailey and Hamson most of the second half without foul trouble. That was a big plus for us. Plus, we’re a hard team to match up with when everything is clicking,” he added.
Hamson finished with a second half line of 18 points, five blocks and 10-10 from the free throw line. She finished the game with 20 points, eight rebounds and seven blocks against one of the toughest teams in the NCAA and the WCC leaders.
The Bulldogs dropped to 13-2 in the WCC, while the Cougars raised their record to 11-4 and a solid second place. The team is obviously considering that they will probably have to play the Bulldogs again this season at the WCC tournament if everything happens the way it should.
“We’re in a good spot for the conference tournament coming up. We were able to prove we’re right there with them,” Hamson noted about the confidence builder that had the crowd standing the final few minutes.
“Our main focus was toughness this game. We knew it was gonna be a dogfight. I think our toughness won this game for us. Towards the end of the game we stuck together, clamped down on defense and didn’t allow them to make a run,” added Lexi Eaton, who finished with a double double of 15 points and 10 rebounds.
The Bulldogs were playing Eaton close all night, but she noted, “I love it when they play me tight because that means the driving lanes are wide open.”
The Bulldogs had defeated the Cougars in Spokane last month 68-42, so BYU really needed to improve all aspects of its game to take on the Bulldogs in the Marriott Center and come away with the huge 10-point victory.
“We wanted to focus on the bigs because they hurt us last time. We knew if we could outscore them in the paint we could win,” added Hamson. The Cougars did outscore the Bulldogs in the paint 26-16 and only allowed Gonzaga’s big four 11 total points in the game.
Bailey and Eaton kept the Cougars in it early as they scored all of the Cougars first 13 points in the game. BYU fell behind by as much as 10 points in the first half before coming on so strong in the second. BYU was able to tied it up at 36-36 and then again at 44-44 before going on the run that left the Bulldogs in the dust in the final eight minutes.
Bailey finished with 14 points, and Kim Beeston added eight points and four assists.
BYU next plays at Pepperdine on February 20.