That was the name of the game for the BYU women’s basketball team Saturday afternoon as they put their perfect record in West Coast Conference play on the line against visiting Loyola Marymount in Provo.
The Lions play aggressive basketball, pressuring on defense and going hard at the glass after rebounds.
The key for the Cougars to get the 55-44 win over LMU (their sixth straight) was to match that intensity, to maintain their focus and commitment to their game plan.
“This was not one of our best games, but it was one of those games where we just toughed it out,” BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said. “We made it look ugly but made enough plays to win the game.”
He pointed to junior guard Brenna Chase as being the player he thought really shined for the Cougars as they battled on every possession at both ends of the court.
“I don’t know if people realize how important that kid is to the team,” Judkins said. “She played 40 minutes tonight. She had to. She was sick, but fought through it and made some big plays for us. Paisley Johnson and Brenna do it the most because they have the most seasoning.”
Cougar freshman guard Shaylee Gonzales said Chase led the way with how she played on the court.
“I think Chase really gets us going,” Gonzales said. “She’s a good vocal leader for us on and off the court.”
BYU trailed the Lions, 16-14, at the end of the first quarter, but surged in front in the second, thanks in large part to a pair of 3-pointers by Chase.
The Cougars pushed a five-point halftime edge to 35-25 as they opened the third quarter with a layup-and-one by Gonzales, then a crafty underhand hook shot by senior forward Jasmine Moody.
The visitors ramped up the defense, but BYU kept LMU from putting together a run of more than four points the rest of the way. The Cougars’ lead never got under eight points after the initial second-half surge.
“We were going to go man the whole game,” Judkins said. “But we were tired and I knew we couldn’t do it, so we went in that zone. They’ve done that this season. We were going to zone a team but they were hitting shots, so we go man up. The nice thing about this team is that they are very versatile with our rotations. 44 points is the lowest they have scored all year. People don’t like it, but you win championships and you win games because of defense. Some nights the ball doesn’t go in.”
BYU junior forward Shalae Salmon said that both teams played physical basketball, which is just the way she likes it.
“In the first half, we didn’t get rebounds like we should have,” Salmon said. “They were really good at bodying us and getting in front of us. But at halftime we took to heart what Judkins said to give it heart, to get every loose ball. I thought we did a better job, but the whole time we were battling. I was muscling girls and they were muscling me back. I love that type of game.”
With the illnesses that have limited some players and the wear-and-tear of playing a lot of games in the last week, Judkins said he wasn’t surprised that neither side was at their best.
“This is what happens when you play four games in seven days,” he said. “I told them after the game that this is the life in the NBA, with four games in seven days and travel. It’s tough. People don’t realize how hard that is. LMU was tired too. You could tell that both of us weren’t as sharp as we probably should be.”
Chase led the way for BYU on offense, scoring 14 points. Gonzales added 13 points while Johnson had 10 points for the Cougars in a balanced attack.
Senior guard Gabby Green had 14 points to pace the Lions in the losing effort.
The Cougars now get a few days to recover before heading back on the road to play at Pacific on Thursday. That game is scheduled to tip off at 7 p.m.