(Photo by BYU Photo)
PROVO, Utah—In 2016-17 BYU women’s basketball concluded the year with its 11th and eighth straight 20-plus win season. The Cougars ended the season with a 20-12 overall record and a 13-5 mark in West Coast Conference play, tied for second with Saint Mary’s.
For the eighth time under coach Jeff Judkins, the Cougar team participated in the WNIT postseason tournament. BYU received the automatic bid and represented the WCC. The Cougars fell to Washington State in the first round. WSU advanced to the semifinals of the 2017 WNIT.
For the second-straight year, BYU finished with a perfect 9-0 home record in WCC play. In 10 of 32 games, two players scored in double figures; three players were in double digits 10 times; four players were in double digits nine times.
The Cougars played five teams from Power-5 conferences in their non-league schedule: Georgia, from the SEC, Oklahoma with the Big 12, Oregon State, Washington and Utah from the Pac-12.
Individually, Cougar players continued to lead the league and ranked top-25 nationally in numerous categories. Junior guard Cassie Broadhead was named the 2017 WCC Women’s Basketball Player of the Year, making it the fourth straight and fifth time overall a BYU player received the highest league honor.
Senior forward Kalani Purcell was named the 2017 WCC Women’s Basketball Defensive Player of the Year, the third time a Cougar player received the defensive honor under coach Judkins. She pulled down a team-best 10.6 rebounds per game and topped the WCC in rebounds, defensive rebounds and in steals, while placing second in assists and blocked shots.
Purcell and Broadhead were named to the WCC Women’s Basketball First Team, the second honor for Purcell. Senior guard Makenzi Pulsipher was named WCC Women’s Basketball Second Team, her second-straight citation, while Brenna Chase made the All-Freshman team.
Broadhead had the team’s best shooting percentage at .480 (183-381), averaging 17.9 points per game, a team and second best in league play. She played the most minutes in the league and on the team, while ranking second in 3-point field goal percentage, fifth in free-throw percentage, sixth in field goal percentage, seventh in assists and ninth in steals in conference action.
Pulsipher ranked second in scoring on the team and 10th in WCC play. She was third in the league in steals, tied for third place in 3-point field goals made, sixth in free-throw percentage and eighth in 3-point field goal percentage.
Graduating seniors Purcell, Pulsipher and Nielson left their mark on numerous BYU records. Purcell tied for seventh all-time in career rebounds with 753 boards. She’s second at BYU in career rebounds per game with a 12.4 average, while placing 11th all-time in field goal percentage with, .460 (322-700).
Pulsipher finished her career ranked 21st in BYU’s prestigious 1,000-point club with a total of 1,240 career points. She ranks seventh all-time in 3-pointers made with 187 and is in eighth place in total games played with 126.
Nielson concluded her Cougar career ranked 16th in total games played with 122.
BYU opened the 2016-17 campaign with a road win at crosstown foe Utah Valley University and then suffered two losses against Power-5 conference foes Georgia and Oklahoma. Three straight wins followed as the Cougars won the UNM Thanksgiving Tournament with victories over St. Joseph’s and Tulsa. Senior Kristine Nielson was named the MVP and was joined by teammate Kalani Purcell on the all-tournament team. In BYU’s next tournament, the team went one and one competing in the Maui Wahine Classic with a 63-54 win over UNLV and a nine-point, 63-54, loss over tournament hosts and No. 15-ranked Oregon State. Purcell was once again named to the all-tournament team.
BYU captured in-state wins over Weber State and Utah State and lost to in-state foe and Pac-12 opponent Utah in Salt Lake City. The Cougars lost to another Pac-12 foe, Washington, ranked 11th nationally, when they made an appearance in Provo in December.
In the WCC 2017 race, BYU, the defending regular season champion, swept the series versus San Diego, Pacific, Pepperdine and Portland. The Cougars split the series versus Gonzaga, Saint Mary’s, LMU, Santa Clara and San Francisco with each team winning on its home court.
In Las Vegas at the WCC Women’s Basketball Championships, BYU advanced to the semifinals after a 75-66 overtime win over San Diego before falling to Saint Mary’s by 10, 59-49.
The Cougars then played one more game hosting Washington State in the first round of the 2017 WNIT. BYU lost that home game, 72-64.
BYU concluded the year with a 17-5 record when leading at the half; it went 17-7 when making five or more treys; 19-3 when dishing out more assists than its opponents; 10-3 when grabbing more rebounds; 14-4 with more blocks and 17-5 when it recorded more steals.