PROVO — The challenge for BYU wasn't getting properly motivated for their game against St. Mary's on Saturday at the Marriott Center. The Gaels, after all, are the same team that beat the Cougars on New Year's Eve.
Once BYU got up on St. Mary's by 21 points at halftime, the real task was staying focused and maintaining their advantage. That was accomplished, as the Cougars blew out the Gaels in the second half and rolled to an 83-47 victory.
"I told them that (St. Mary's) was down big to Gonzaga and came back, and that they could do the same thing to us," BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said.
There would be no such comeback on this day though, as the Cougars kept the heat on the entire game. Jennifer Hamson led all scorers with 18 points, and grabbed nine rebounds while swatting away three shots.
"Sometimes leads are hard to keep but today we did a good job of keeping up the intensity," Hamson said.
The Cougars forced St. Mary's into 29 turnovers, something Judkins credits to his team's defense.
"I thought our defense was great today," he said. "Our press was very effective, and we forced them into uncomfortable shots. This was one of the best defensive efforts we've had all year."
Kristen Riley continued to play well, finishing with 15 points and six rebounds. Point guard Haley Steed dished out 10 assists and scored seven points, while collecting four steals.
"I think this was a combination of a couple things," Steed said. "One, we lost Thursday (to Pepperdine), and the second part was that we lost to (St. Mary's) earlier in the season. We had been marking this one on our calendar."
Lexi Eaton got into early foul trouble, but contributed eight points and four assists, while Kim Parker had five steals and five points. Dani Peterson had eight points and a block.
Judkins eventually completely unloaded the bench, and got some significant contributions from a few reserves. Morgan Bailey had a pair of blocks, and her intensity caught the eye of Judkins.
"She came in with fire and purpose," he said. "She's a great passer."
Stephanie Vermunt chipped in with seven points, three assists and four rebounds, and Ashley Garfield had a career-high eight points on 3-of-4 shooting, while dishing out three assists.
"She came in really excited to be on the court," Judkins said. "She has focus and energy, and today she gave us a spark."
The Cougars next turn their attention to a home date against No. 19 Gonzaga on Thursday at 7 p.m. They play the West Coast Conference-leading Bulldogs twice in their last five regular-season games.
"It's something we've been looking forward to," Judkins said. "These young ladies will be ready to play."
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