To say that the BYU women’s basketball team got off to a good start against Saint Mary’s on Thursday is a massive understatement.
The Cougars jumped all over the Gaels from the start, racing to a 17-0 lead in the first six minutes of the game. BYU couldn’t maintain that offense pace but suffocated Saint Mary’s with an active defense all night, finishing with a 60-39 West Coast Conference victory at the Marriott Center.
“Our play lately has not been as good as we’ve wanted, and we noticed our intensity and energy has been so low,” BYU senior guard Brenna Drollinger said. “So we were really going to focus on the little things and when you focus on the little things, you can play nearly perfect.”
The Cougars were nearly perfect in the first six minutes of the game against a dangerous Saint Mary’s team, which was coming off an upset of No. 11 Gonzaga.
Paisley Johnson, Malli Perri and Maria Albiero all had 3-pointers and BYU found holes inside as well, jumping out to a 17-0 lead at the 4:23 mark of the first period.
Saint Mary’s, which made 14 of 21 (67%) from beyond the arc in upsetting No. 11 Gonzaga on Saturday, missed its first six 3-pointers and its first ten shots overall, finally scoring on a 3-pointer by Claire Ferguson with 4:12 showing on the clock.
Johnson dropped in another triple with under a minute to play and the Cougars lead was 18, 25-7, after one quarter.
“It was probably one of our best quarters of the year,” BYU coach Jeff Judkins said. “We executed, we moved the ball and took advantage of what we had.”
BYU was 5 of 5 from the 3-point line in the first period and 10 of 16 (63%) overall, while the Gaels were a frigid 1 for 9 from distance (11%) and 2 of 18 (11%) overall.
The rest of the game wasn’t as explosive for the Cougar offense but they continued to make things difficult for Saint Mary’s on the defensive end. BYU closed the second quarter on a 7-0 spurt, including a 3-pointer from Drollinger, for a 36-14 advantage at halftime.
Saint Mary’s was 5 of 32 from the field (16%) in the first half and 2 of 15 (13%) from the 3-point line.
The Cougars led by as many as 25 points in the second half and the Gaels — who hit 14 of 21 from the 3-point line on Saturday in their upset of Gonzaga — could never get any closer than 17 points the rest of the way.
Saint Mary’s finished the game just 4 of 26 (15%) from beyond the arc.
“I thought Maria did an outstanding job on their best 3-point shooter (Taycee Wedin) who leads the league in threes made,” Judkins said. “Saint Mary’s only made four 3-pointers tonight and two of them came from bench players. We did a really good job on their shooters to not give them open shots. Maria had to fight through a lot of screens and picks and she did a great job. She was really tired after the game tonight and that’s the first time I’ve seen her that tired.”
Drollinger filled up the stat sheet for the Cougars (9-4 WCC, 14-9 overall) with 18 points (including four 3-pointers) eight rebounds, five assists two steals and two blocks. Jasmine Moody came off the bench and scored 10 points. Sara Hamson added five blocks and now has 300 for her career — third all-time at BYU and third in her family since her mother, Tresa, is the program leader with 494 and her sister, Jennifer, is second with 340.
Perri, a 6-foot-5 sophomore, made the first start of her career and played well with six points, two rebounds, two assists and two blocks. Judkins also praised her defense against the normally sharp-shooting Gaels.
Sam Simons led Saint Mary’s (6-8, 11-14) with 10 points but made just 4 of 13 from the field, including 0-for-5 from the 3-point line.
BYU will host another important WCC game in the Marriott Center on Saturday against Pacific.