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BYU women's basketball: First-half run propels Cougars past Eagles

Published: Saturday, Nov. 26 2011 10:25 p.m. MST

Eastern Washington's Melissa Willams (#42) and BYU's Alexis Kaufusi and Lexi Eaton, right, reach for the rebound during a women's basketball game at the Marriott Center in Provo on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011.

Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

PROVO — They had to have an idea it wouldn't last. But the visiting Eastern Washington Eagles (2-3) kept shooting — and making — 3-pointers.

When they stopped going in the basket, the Eagles couldn't have been surprised. And BYU (4-2) was there to take advantage, cruising to its third straight victory, 77-58, on Saturday at the Marriott Center.

Eastern Washington's first three field goals of the game were 3-pointers, using that to build an 11-5 lead. But when they started to miss, the Cougars went on a 21-3 run that head coach Jeff Judkins said was key to the win.

"That was the part of the game that won the game for us," he said, a stretch in which five BYU players scored.

One of those Cougars was Alexis Kaufusi, playing in her second game since returning from treatment last year for Hodgkin's Lymphoma. Kaufusi helped her team pull away from the Eagles with six points in six first-half minutes. She finished the game with 10 minutes.

"What I saw was the (Kaufusi) that is really aggressively, especially defensively," Judkins said. "When she plays like that, she can really help this team."

Kaufusi was thrilled to see some court time, and says returning to where she wants to be will be a process.

"It's the most refreshing feeling to be out there," she said. "I'm coming back, slowly but surely. Every day in practice, I try to do a little more."

Leading 36-19 at halftime, the Cougars pulled away even more in the second half. The lead grew to 47-23, and the Eagles never got closer than down 15 the rest of the game.

BYU center Jennifer Hamson was a force in the post, hitting on 2-of-4 shots, but also taking advantage from the free throw line, connecting on 9-of-11. Hamson shared team-high honors in scoring with Kim Parker. Both had 13 points.

"I felt like there was some matchups we had (in the post), and thankfully our team saw it, too, and they worked to get it inside," Hamson said.

Parker, who was limited against Wisconsin due to getting in foul trouble early, said she didn't want a repeat in that regard.

"I tried not to think about it, but coming into this game, I didn't want it to happen again," she said.

Freshman Lexi Eaton contributed 11 points, while Kristen Riley pulled down seven rebounds, and Haley Steed dished out eight assists. Stephanie Vermunt chipped in with nine points, all on 3-pointers.

Eastern Washington was led by Brianne Ryan with a game-high 22 points. Ryan also had eight rebounds, while teammate Carrie Ojeda grabbed nine rebounds.

BYU now heads to Hawaii to play three games in the Hukilau Invitational. They will take on BYU-Hawaii on Tuesday, Arizona on Thursday and Syracuse on Saturday. All three games will be at the Cannon Event Center in Laie, on the island of Oahu.

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