PROVO, Utah – The BYU women’s basketball team posted a convincing victory as it defeated the No. 18/19 Gonzaga Bulldogs, 70-40, on Thursday night in front of an energetic Marriott Center crowd.
BYU (22-4, 10-2) is now tied with Gonzaga (21-4, 10-2) for first place in West Coast Conference standings.
"It was our night," BYU coach Jeff Judkins said. "I'm really proud of my team. I think tonight was one of the best defensive efforts I've coached in a long, long time. We were physical; we executed the game plan very well."
Three Cougars scored in double-digits as Kim Parker led BYU with 16 points, Jennifer Hamson added 14 points and Kristen Riley recorded her seventh double-double this season with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Dani Peterson also grabbed 10 boards for the Cougars. Haley Steed handed out 10 assists in the victory to surpass All-American Erin Thorn and to take her place at No. 3 all-time in BYU history for assists in a career. Steed now has 507 career assists.
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The first half was a half of streaks as the Bulldogs took an early 7-2 lead but the Cougars battled back to tie the game, 7-7, off a three-point play by Riley. Hamson came in and made an immediate impact for BYU off the bench grabbing two rebounds, blocking a shot and scoring four points in her first four minutes of play. The Cougars prevented Gonzaga from scoring a field goal for over eight minutes to take a five-point lead, 14-9.
"It’s nice to have an ace in your pocket," Judkins said. "Hamson made some plays tonight that last year she wouldn’t even come close to. She improves probably more than anybody. She’s really a force. I know she’s going to continue to get better. One thing I like about Hamson, if something happens and it doesn’t go right, she keeps competing. She was a big factor. They had a hard time matching up with her tonight."
The Bulldogs battled back to tie the game, 14-14, but the balanced scoring by BYU would allow the Cougars to outscore Gonzaga 10-6 to go into the half with a four-point advantage over the Bulldogs. Steed went into the locker room with six assists, giving the senior guard more assists than the other players on either team combined. Both teams struggled from the field as BYU shot just 28.6 percent and Gonzaga shot 15.2 percent.
Sophomore Parker kicked off the second with back-to-back baskets, a jumper and a 3-pointer, for the Cougars but the Bulldogs answered with a two-point basket and trey of their own. The two teams continued to exchange baskets but with 13:27 remaining, BYU took over as a Stephanie Vermont 3-pointer sparked a 20-0 run, highlighted by a Parker old-fashioned three-point play as well as five points and a block by Hamson. With 5:13 remaining, Steed recorded her 506th career assist with the dish to Riley to take her place in BYU history.
The Cougars took a 26-point lead off a three-point play by freshman Lexi Eaton and Judkins emptied his bench to finish the final 2:45 of the game. BYU shot an impressive 65.2 percent from the field in the second half.
"[Gonzaga] is a great team," Peterson said. "They are capable of a comeback so we didn’t want to give them any breathing room because they’re a great team and no great team ever gives up."
The Cougars will next face San Francisco on Feb. 16 at 7 p.m. in the Marriott Center. The game will be broadcast on BYUtv.
The last time BYU defeated a ranked team was Nov. 13, 2006, when the Cougars defeated No. 4 Stanford, 55-52, on the Cardinal’s home court.
The last time BYU defeated a ranked team in conference play was Feb. 2, 2006, when the team defeated No. 16 New Mexico, 60-55, while a member of the Mountain West Conference.
For the victory against Gonzaga, 2,014 fans were in attendance, the second highest attendance of the season and highest in conference play.
BYU held Gonzaga to shooting 15.2 percent from the field during the first half and 21.9 percent for the game. The team only allowed three Bulldog 3-pointers.
The Cougars went on a 20-0 run during the second half to lock in their victory.
BYU now leads the overall series with Gonzaga 4-3.
The Cougars outrebounded the Bulldogs 44-37 and forced 15 turnovers. BYU also had 21 assists to Gonzaga’s seven.
BYU’s bench outscored Gonzaga’s 28-9. BYU had 19 points off turnovers to Gonzaga’s six and 22 points in the paint to Gonzaga’s 16.
With her assist at the 5:13 mark in the second half, Haley Steed passed Erin Thorn’s career assist record. Steed is now No. 3 with 507 career assists. She needs seven more assists to tie for second with Kathy Denton.
Dani Peterson grabbed 10 rebounds, tying her career high. She also had three points.
Kristen Riley scored 11 points for her fifth-straight double-figure outing. With 10 rebounds, Riley recorded her fourth double-double in five games, seventh of the season and 11th of her career.
Kim Parker put up 16 points to lead all scorers. She also had five rebounds and four assists.
Jennifer Hamson scored 14 points, with nine rebounds and three blocks.