Albuquerque, N.M. — Senior Kristine Nielson’s career-high 15 points lifted BYU women’s basketball to a 71-56 semifinal victory at the UNM Thanksgiving Tournament Friday night in Albuquerque.
“What a great game by both Micaelee (Orton) and Kristine. They were keys to our team winning today,” BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said. "We made some big plays both offensively and defensively. Cassie (Broadhead) continues to be a good player for us and Makenzi (Pulsipher) is always solid."
BYU (2-2) outshot St. Joseph’s (1-4) 44 percent to 35 percent on the night as five players scored double digits. Behind Nielson’s 15, junior Cassie Broadhead had 14 points and five assists. Seniors Makenzi Pulsipher and Kalani Purcell both added 12 points while Purcell pulled down 11 rebounds. Senior Micaelee Orton contributed a career-high 10 points off the bench, including seven in the first half, and tied her career-high six rebounds.
The Cougars started the game off on a 9-0 run with 3-pointers from Broadhead, Pulsipher and Nielson. They held the Hawks scoreless for the first five minutes of the game before St. Joseph’s hit two-consecutive layups to trail 9-4. BYU maintained a lead of at least five points through the rest of the quarter, ending the period with an eight-point lead, 20-12.
A layup from Purcell boosted the Cougars’ lead to double digits, 22-12, with 8:50 left in the second quarter. St. Joseph’s fought back and cut the lead down to nine points with 4:37 on the clock, but BYU refused to let up. The Cougars shot an impressive 14 of 17 from the charity stripe, including eight-consecutive free throw shots from Purcell, Pulsipher, Broadhead, Orton and Nielson. BYU also shot 40 percent from the beyond the arc en route to a 13-point 36-23 lead at halftime.
St. Joseph’s came out of the locker room fired up and ready to go, dominating the third quarter on a 17-6 run to come back from a 17-point deficit. The Hawks took their first lead of the game on a jumper with 36 seconds left in the period before a pair of free throws from Broadhead tied it and then gave the Cougars a one-point advantage, 48-47, to end the quarter.
After a scoreless three and a half minutes to open the fourth period, the BYU responded to the St. Joseph’s offensive outburst with an 10-2 run of their own and a nine-point lead halfway through the quarter, 58-49.
The Cougars continued to pull ahead, going on a 20-4 run to close the game out. BYU’s largest lead of 19 points came with 2:10 left before a St. Joseph's jumper and three free throws reduced the gap to 15. The Cougars finished the game on top, 71-56.
BYU will play either Tulsa or tournament host New Mexico tomorrow, Saturday, Nov. 26, at either 12 p.m. or 2:30 p.m. MT.
With the 15-point, 71-56 victory over St. Joseph’s, the Cougar women’s basketball team improved their record to 2-2 on the season. BYU enjoyed a 13-point, 36-23 advantage at halftime. The 71 points are season bests for the team.
BYU ended the game with a season-best 12 blocks. Both teams tied in the assists category with each dishing out 14 assists.
BYU shot 32.1 percent from the field in the first half and 82.4 percent from the free-throw line while holding the Hawks to just 27.6 percent shooting from the field. The Cougars finished shooting 44.0 percent from the field, 75.9 percent from the free-throw line and 33.3 percent shooting from behind the arc. SJU shot 35.1 percent from the field, 65.0 percent from the charity stripe and 30.0 percent from 3-point range.
For the first time this year, BYU had five players score in double digits. Nielson (15), Broadhead (14), Pulsipher (12), Purcell (12) and Orton (10).
At the end of the first half of play, both teams had pulled down 21 rebounds. The Cougars finished the game with one more rebound, pulling down 36 to St. Joseph’s 35.
Kristine Nielson recorded career highs in points with 14 in the win over SJU. The points are her first double digit outing in scoring of the season and the second in her career. They were also game highs. She pulled down five boards, which tied for season bests to date and also contributed with two assists and a career-high two blocks.
Kalani Purcell had pulled down seven rebounds to go along with her four points and three blocks through the first 20 minutes of play. She recorded her first double-double of the season and the 19th of her career with a game-high 11 boards and 12 points. She also had game highs in assists with six and in blocks with four.
Micaelee Orton came off the bench picking up season and career highs in points with 10. She also pulled down a season-best six rebounds, the boards also tied for career highs.
Cassie Broadhead had eight points in the first half of action while dishing out four assists. She also recorded three blocks. At the end of the game, she had a total of 14 points, five assists, one steal and two rebounds. The points mark the fourth straight time she’s put up double digits in points.
Makenzi Pulsipher was tied for team highs in points with eight, going 5-of-6 from the charity stripe. For the game, she finished with 12 points, pulled down three rebounds and went 5-of-7 from the free-throw line. The double figure game in scoring is the fourth straight this year.