PROVO — Battling through another close game, BYU took the ball inside and subsequently blew it open, beating San Diego 64-50 Saturday at the Marriott Center.
"This was a real struggle," BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said. "San Diego is one of the best defensive teams in the league, but we really willed our way through the game."
Up by only one point midway through the second half after San Diego's Dominique Conners nailed a 3-pointer, the Cougars went on a 19-0 run, as they repeatedly went into the paint.
Most of the time, the Toreros (19-7, 10-4 West Coast Conference) sent BYU to the line, as the Cougars connected on 10-of-12 free throws during their scoring spurt.
When the damage was assessed, BYU (23-5, 11-3) led 64-44 with a minute and a half remaining.
Another key to the Cougars' victory was the fact they played zone on defense, something Judkins rarely does, but was convinced that it would be effective against the Toreros.
"I've got to give my coaches a lot of credit," Judkins said. "I'm not a zone coach, but they convinced me to do it."
The adjustment paid off, as San Diego shot just 27 percent in the second half.
Kristen Riley notched her third straight double-double — and ninth for the season — with 12 points and 13 rebounds, also adding two assists and a steal.
"(Judkins) made it known to us that this was a huge game," Riley said after the Cougars fell to San Francisco on Thursday.
Haley Steed and Jennifer Hamson led BYU with 14 points apiece. Steed also had five assists and three steals, while Hamson grabbed seven rebounds and had three blocks. Kim Parker was active, recording six points, six rebounds, four assists, a block and two steals.
Steed now sits in second place on the BYU all-time career assists list with 518.
Lexi Eaton contributed 11 points, and said she wanted to help her teams' cause after struggling in the first half.
"I didn't have the greatest first half; I wasn't really contributing to the team," Eaton said. "But (Judkins) told me to drive the ball because it was there."
After a close loss two nights before, Eaton said the team wanted to open things up in the second half and avoid another tight game.
"After halftime we wanted to throw the first punch, and that's what we did."
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