LAS VEGAS — A record night from senior Lexi Eaton Rydalch Monday afternoon led the BYU women’s basketball team to a semifinal win over Santa Clara, 87-67, and punched their ticket to the West Coast Conference championship game.
Rydalch’s 25 points puts her in fourth place on BYU's all-time scoring leaders list, just ahead of Danny Ainge. Her 2,490 career points also ties her with the late Hank Gathers of LMU for first all-time in scoring in WCC history.
"Santa Clara is a tough team and what a great season they've had this year," BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said. "That zone they play is tough. You don't realize it until you get out there. In the third quater they came out and jumped on us quick. I looked at my girls and I knew they would be all right. They would fight and come back, because they believe in themselves. That's exactly what they did. I'm proud of them."
Rydalch led all players with 25 points and she also contributed eight rebounds and four assists. Makenzi Morrison Pulsipher finished with 17 points and Kylie Maeda had 16 points and five assists. Kalani Purcell had eight points and a game-high 17 rebounds and Cassie Broadhead contributed 11 points and three assists.
Collectively, BYU shot 51 percent from the floor and 50 percent beyond the arc. The 87 points from the Cougars is also the team high for the 2015-16 season. BYU will be returning to its fourth WCC Championship game in five years. The Cougars have won the title twice, in 2012 and 2015.
Santa Clara opened the first period with a jumper by Marie Bertholdt. On the next possession, Rydalch tied the game at 2-all with a floater in the lane. At the 8:18 mark, Rydalch converted a 3-pointer to give BYU the 5-4 lead. With her 3-point field goal, Rydalch passed Ainge to become fourth all-time in scoring in BYU history with 2,470 points.
The Cougars took the 11-6 lead midway through the first period fueled by two back-to-back treys from Maeda and Pulsipher. The Broncos then cut the BYU lead to three, 11-8, but Rydalch increased the lead to six, 14-8, as she converted her second 3-point field goal of the game.
With 57 seconds to go in the period, Lori Parkinson cut the BYU lead to two, 14-12. Rydalch closed out the period with a layup to give the Cougars the 16-12 advantage going into the second period.
BYU made four 3-pointers in the first period of play to Santa Clara’s zero. Rydalch led all scorers in the first 10 minutes of action with 10 points.
Santa Clara tied the game at 18-all at the 7:48 mark of the second period on a 3-pointer by Savanna Hanson. Maeda answered the Bronco basket with her second trey of the contest to put the Cougars on top 21-18.
Maeda then put BYU up six, 26-20, as she found an open lane to the basket for a layup, forcing a Santa Clara timeout. With 2:54 to go in the half, Bertholdt put the Broncos within six, 28-22, as she made a pair of free throws.
Micaelee Orton sank one of two free throws to give BYU the seven-point 32-25 lead with 1:15 to play. The Cougars took a 32-27 lead into the break.
The Broncos opened the third period with five points in 18 seconds. Orton’s layup and free-throws ended the Bronco run and put BYU up by five with nine minutes to play.
Rydalch and Maeda hit back-to-back 3-pointers to give the Cougars a 42-34 advantage with seven minutes left. A pair of Rydalch free throws with 4:50 remaining game BYU its first double digit lead of the game at 47-37
A 3-point play for Santa Clara started an 8-2 run that puled the Broncos back within four at 47-43 with 2:06 left in the third quarter. Purcell’s layup with 1:30 to play ended the run and the Cougars held a 53-47 lead at the end of the quarter.
Broadhead and Rydalch opened the fourth quarter with back-to-back jumpers to help the Cougars regain a double digit lead.
After Santa Clara pulled back within seven, BYU used an 11-1 run over the next three-plus minutes to take a 68-51 lead. The run included a pair of Purcell jumpers that sandwiched four Pulsipher free throws and ended with a Pulsipher 3.
Lori Parkinson’s layup ended the run, but another Pulsipher 3-pointer gave the Cougars an 18-point lead.
The Broncos went on strong offensive run during the last half of the fourth period, hitting their last six shots from the field. It was too little too late for Santa Clara as BYU hit 3 shots from deep in the final 3 minutes to secure the 87-67 win.
BYU will play the winner of the second semifinal game of Saint Mary's vs. San Francisco in the WCC championship game Tuesday at 1 p.m. PST. The game will be televised live on ESPNU and streamed online WatchESPN.com. The game will also be broadcast line on BYU Radio and Sirius XM 143.
With the 87-67 win over Santa Clara, BYU women’s basketball advances to the finals of the 2016 WCC tournament for the third straight season and the fourth time since joining the league in 2011-12. The Cougars won the league championship crown in 2012 and in 2015.
The 87 points scored in today’s victory are a season high and the fifth time this year that BYU has scored 80-plus points in a game.
BYU shot 47.6 percent from the field in the first half while going 5 of 12 from behind the arc. The Cougars finished the game shooting 51.1 percent from the field, 50.0 percent from 3-point range and 79.4 percent from the free throw line.
For the third time this season, four players finished the game with double figures in scoring, including: Rydalch (25), Pulsipher (17), Maeda (16) and Broadhead (11).
In the rebounds category, BYU had 22 to SCU’s 16 in the first half. The Cougars finished the game outrebounding the Broncos 38 to 32. BYU improved to 17-1 when grabbing more boards than its opponent.
The Cougars had seven assists in the first half and finished with 17. The Broncos had four in the first 20 minutes of play and ended the game with eight.
With her first 3-pointer of the game, Lexi Eaton Rydalch tallied 2,470 career points passing Danny Ainge’s 2,467 career points. Ainge ranks third all-time at BYU while Rydalch is second all-time on the women’s. With her 25 points in today’s game she tied Hank Gathers for the men’s WCC scoring record with 2,490 points.
Rydalch tied for game-highs in points with 12 through the first half of play. She also had five rebounds and two assists. She finished with a game-high 25 points for her 24th game with 20-plus points. Rydalch pulled down eight rebounds, dished out four assists and had one steal. She went 7 of 10 from the free throw line.
Kalani Purcell had nine rebounds in the first 20 minutes of action to lead all players. She finished with a game-best 17 boards along with eight points and two steals.
Kylie Maeda was the second BYU player to tally double digit scoring in the first half with 10. She also led all scorers in the assists category with four. For the game, she tallied 16 points, had a game-best five assists and two steals.
Makenzi Morrison Pulsipher picked up her 21st game with double digit scoring with 17 points to go along with three assists and two steals. She shot 8 of 10 from the free throw line.
For the fourth time this year, Cassie Broadhead came off the bench to score in double figures with 11. She went 6 for 6 from the free throw line, tied for the game high in steals with three, dished out three assists and pulled down two rebounds.