PROVO — Success in basketball is greatly reliant on exploiting matchups, and on Thursday, the BYU women's basketball team was a mismatch in every way for Loyola Marymount in an 80-47 victory at the Marriott Center.
The game marked the Cougars' (13-3) first ever West Coast Conference home game, and was part of a stretch of four games in eight days. BYU, which plays at San Francisco on Saturday, improved to 2-1 in WCC play.
"We felt like we had certain mismatches that we could take advantage of," Cougars head coach Jeff Judkins said.
Most notably, BYU had a substantial height advantage, and the post players were able to turn that into a positive. Kristen Riley finished with a team-high 16 points, while Jennifer Hamson finished with nine points, seven rebounds and two blocks, and Dani Peterson contributed eight points.
The Cougars also dominated on the boards, outrebounding Loyola Marymount 42-25, and outscored the Lions in the paint 38-14.
"Most of the teams we've been playing had had shorter, guard-like girls in the post and I've been focused on playing them. I knew there was going to be a mismatch, but I was mainly focused on playing good defense on their shooters."
BYU was up 12-9 when the Lions (4-11, 0-3 WCC) went on an extended scoreless drought. During an almost eight-minute stretch, the Cougars outscored Loyola Marymount 19-0.
"I feel like we're all playing really well together, especially on defense," freshman Lexi Eaton said. "I felt like we got them out of their offense early. That's what we work on in practice every day and it's nice to see it transfer onto the court. Eaton finished the game with 14 points on 6-of-7 shooting.
That put BYU up 31-9 and the Cougars were in cruise control the rest of the game.
"It was not a real emotional or physical game and it's hard for us to play that way, but it's a win and I'm really happy for them," Judkins said. "That makes you get lazy and makes the game a lot slower. But this team can play different styles probably more than any other team I've had."
BYU's lead ballooned to as much as 41 (74-33) with seven and a half minutes remaining, and that provided the Cougars' bench players quite a bit of time on the court.
In all, 15 BYU players got playing time, and 10 of them scored.
"I was mostly happy with (the reserves), until the end when they got tired and they started gambling," Judkins said. "I try to just focus on the game and not the score, and that's what they need to do."
After a tough six-point loss at St. Mary's on New Year's Eve, Judkins said he was happy with the team's response after they have bounced back with a pair of wins.
"We played a really tough game at St. Mary's and we could have felt sorry for ourselves, but we're not that way," Judkins said. The leadership that we have on this team wouldn't let the team crumble after the loss. I think that really helps and they'll be a great example for the young kids when it becomes their opportunity."
One of those leaders, the senior Riley, explained the team's attitude from the players' perspective.
"We knew St. Mary's was going to be a tough road game and going to Portland we wanted to step up and get the loss out of our systems," Riley said. "We were able to learn a lot from that game, so it's better to learn from a loss rather than tank it."
Cougars point guard Haley Steed had eight points, eight assists and five rebounds, while Stephanie Vermunt put in six points and pulled down four rebounds.
Alex Cowling, who leads the WCC in scoring, had a game-high 23 points for the Lions. Teammates Hazel Ramirez and Melinda Gomez contributed eight points apiece.
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