PROVO, Utah – Continuing on an eight-game winning streak, the BYU women’s basketball team (9-2) proved victorious in a matchup against rival Utah (4-4) Saturday afternoon in the Marriott Center with the final score at 63-58.
This win for the Cougars contributed three points to the Deseret First Duel, with BYU in the lead at 19-10.
“Tonight was a great win for us,” BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said. “We really needed to feel some confidence. Utah did a great job. They did some things to us that we aren’t used to. They did a good job of taking our fast break away.”
Team leaders for the game included Stephanie Vermunt, who totaled 14 points. Vermunt went 4-4 in three-pointers, gaining a season high and tying a career high. Haley Steed contributed 12 points and eight assists for the Cougars while Dani Peterson added 10 points.
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“I thought our bench was outstanding tonight,” Judkins said. “I think Stephanie Vermunt was the key. I knew they would have a hard time matching up with her outside presence. She had some big key shots. She played big tonight.”
While the Cougars were able to start off strong with the first basket by Lexi Eaton, they eventually fell behind due to a good showing of Utah’s range. The Ute’s first 12 points were scored with four 3-pointers, putting the Cougars behind at 7-12.
A Steed assist and a Peterson layup started a 12-0 run for the Cougars. Both Steed and Vermunt contributed crucial 3-pointers to the run.
With the score then at 25-19, the Cougars played back-and-forth with the Utes. After a few quick rebounds and put-backs, the Utes advanced the score to 29-28 ahead of the Cougars. But BYU’s Peterson got off a quick shot in the paint to grab the lead again for the Cougars at 30-29 to end the half.
Steed and Peterson went into the locker room tied with seven points each. Steed also had five assists for the first half.
Utah got off a successful shot in the paint to start the half, but BYU’s Riley retaliated with a 3-pointer to take back the lead at 35-33.
Vermunt made three consecutive 3-pointers before a fast break from Xojian Harry put the Cougars at a comfortable lead over the Utes at 47-36.
At 5:43 left in the second half, Steed got an offensive board and quick jumper before the Utes fought back with a 3-pointer to put the score at 51-42.
After showing defensive strength, Peterson came down the court and sank a three to advance to a 54-43 lead for the Cougars.
While BYU felt comfortable with the lead, Utah made a minor last-minute comeback with Michelle Plouffe draining two consecutive 3-pointers with 42 seconds left and Iwalani Rodrigues scoring another three with 15 seconds left in the game. However, their efforts weren’t enough to take back the lead and the Cougars finished the game at 63-58.
Next up, BYU will travel to Logan to face-off with Utah State on Saturday December 17 at 2 p.m.
The win increased BYU’s winning streak to eight games.
Head coach Jeff Judkins increased his record against Pac-12 teams to 13-7.
With 10:42 left in the first half, Dani Peterson’s layup launched a 12-0 run to put the Cougars ahead 25-19.
The lead changed six times during the game.
BYU had 17 assists to the Utes’ 13 and four steals to the Utes’ one.
The Cougars drew in their second largest crowd of the season with 1,270 in attendance.
BYU held Utah to 28.6 percent shooting in the second half and 39.2 percent for the game while shooting 41.5 percent itself.
BYU is 8-0 when leading at the half.
The Cougars are 6-1 when they make more than five 3-pointers and 3-1 when their opponent makes more than five 3-pointers.
BYU is 3-0 when both teams make an equal number of rebounds.
The Cougars only had seven turnovers and forced 11 Utah turnovers. The Cougars are 6-1 when they make less than 16 turnovers and 2-1 when their opponent makes less than 16 turnovers. BYU scored 11 points off turnovers.
BYU increased its home record to 4-1.
The Cougars once against showed the strength of their bench, with 24 points scored by bench players. Utah had seven bench points.
Stephanie Vermunt set a season high of four 3-pointers, tying her career high from last season. Vermunt shot a perfect 4-for-4 from beyond the arc. She also recorded a season-high 14 points and tied her season high of four rebounds.
Haley Steed tied her season high of eight assists, also aiding the Cougars with 12 points for her sixth time reaching double figures this season. She also led the Cougars in rebounding with nine and in steals with two.
Lexi Eaton tied her career high of three assists and added eight points.
Dani Peterson recorded her fourth double-figure outing of the season with 10 points.
“I’m real proud of Haley (Steed), she played whole forty minutes. I’m proud of my bigs. Michelle (Plouffe) is a really good player. She always plays good against us, I don’t know why. Kristen (Riley) did a good job against her.
I knew Utah would fight back. It’s big to have those long 11-0 runs. Vermunt was a big part of those runs. She came in and hit those shots. When I recruited her, I knew she was a great scorer. She has so many weapons. She causes a lot of problems. She’s a nice ace to have in the pocket when you need her. She does a good job of doing whatever I want her to do.
When a team brings four people up it’s hard to trap. It’s hard to get a double team because they spread them out. Utah’s bigs are very good passers. When you try to trap them, they make good decisions. The second half we didn’t press. I told them to get back and guard your man. I think the strength of our team is half-court defense so that’s what we did. We have to keep working on it. Utah did a great job of spreading us out.
I told the girls at halftime, we have to do a better job of guarding them one-on-one. We have to do a better job of moving. We still stood around a lot but when I put Vermunt at the four I think we moved around a lot better. Defensively, we didn’t give (Iwalani) Rodrigues an open look tonight and I think that was key. She still got her points, but she had to earn them.”
“This is a hard game to play in just because of the rivalry. Everyone has jitters during the first half. We came out in the second half and executed. Vermunt came out in the second and hit some huge key shots that really swung the momentum of the game and I think that was the key.
We have so many weapons on this team. If I have assists, I know we played well. My job is to move the ball. There are so many people that can shoot. My job is to find those people and get them the ball.”
“It feels great to be able to contribute and hit those key shots for the team. When we execute we can essentially get anything.”