PROVO — The BYU women's basketball team used a big scoring run late to score a significant 58-54 win over Gonzaga at home Thursday night. A complete team effort along with some cool and steady emotions keyed a 17-1 run within the game's final five minutes, which had BYU coach Jeff Judkins smiling big in postgame interviews.
“It’s one of the best wins I’ve had in a long time,” Judkins said. “Not because we beat Gonzaga, or that we won the game — being down seven points with (five) and something minutes left in the game and not giving up. I think that shows a lot of character as a coach, that’s what you want — the willingness to fight to the end no matter what.”
The circumstances that keyed the big run could have proved devastating. After closing to within 42-41 early in the fourth quarter, and with the Marriott Center crowd very much into it, the Bulldogs scored an 8-0 run to push their lead back to 50-41 with 5:14 remaining. The 8-0 run was fueled by several Cougar turnovers that led to easy buckets on Gonzaga's end.
At that point, Judkins called timeout and put a lot of bad play on himself, if not all of it, for calling bad offensive sets.
“When I called a timeout, I said, ‘Look, it was my fault, it’s all right. Forget it. Let’s execute, but now we have to be perfect,’” Judkins said. “And you could tell in their eyes — just looking at them. They really believed it. They believed they could do it.”
If the Cougars weren't completely perfect during the game's final five minutes, they were very close to it.
Lexi Eaton-Rydalch led the way, scoring on several jumpers while her teammates provided significant defense, rebounding and foul shooting. One of the more significant moments came when sophomore forward Amanda Wayment grabbed a contested offensive rebound for a put-back basket at the 1:43 mark to draw the Cougars to within 51-50. It proved to be Wayment's lone points of the game, but they couldn't have come at a much better time.
“She’s just a solid kid,” Judkins said of Wayment. “She does whatever the team needs her to do, and that basket was big.”
After another defensive stop, it was junior forward Kalani Purcell who gave the Cougars their first lead in the game at 52-51 with 1:27 remaining, with a calm and collected baseline jumper.
“That baseline jumper is just like a motion thing. So it’s out of just habit,” Purcell said. “I just turned around, shot it and couldn’t help (from) being really excited.”
The crowd proved excited as well — jumping out of their seats to cheer the team loudly the rest of the way.3 comments on this story
To close things out, it was Cassie Broadhead hitting on all four foul shots with Makenzi Morrison-Pulsipher adding two of her own.
Purcell finished the game with 17 points and a game-high 16 rebounds. Eaton-Rydalch scored a game-high 18 points with Kylie Maeda and Morrison-Pulsipher adding seven and six points, respectively.
Gonzaga was led by Shelby Cheslek and Kiara Kudron, who had 11 and 10 points, respectively.
With the win, the Cougars draw even with the Zags to co-lead the West Coast Conference in the standings with a 5-1 overall record. Next up is another home game against Portland on Saturday.