LAS VEGAS — Way back in early January, the BYU women’s basketball team lost at home to Pacific, 75-62. One month later, the Cougars exacted revenge against the Tigers on the road, 88-57.
The two teams meet in the rubber match Monday (3:30 p.m. MDT, BYUtv) in the West Coast Conference semifinals.
What was the difference in the first two games?
BYU 6-foot-7 center Jennifer Hamson, the WCC Player of the Year, broke her nose while seeking a rebound at the Marriott Center late in the second half and missed a crucial stretch against Pacific.
The Cougars were also without their other top post player, forward Morgan Bailey, in that game.
Both Hamson and Bailey played against the Tigers in Stockton, Calif., and BYU cruised to a dominating 31-point victory.
“Pacific’s a really scary team. They’re athletic. They’re quick. They want to speed you up,” said coach Jeff Judkins. “Our advantage is our size. We also run the ball well, but we have to play our game and get the ball inside, which we did at Pacific pound it inside to Jen and Morgan.”
Hamson is accustomed to being subjected to rough play by opponents.
“Jen knows (Pacific will) be physical with her,” Judkins said. “She knows they’ll try to double-team her. She’s done a good job of not letting that bother her. I think Morgan helps.”
Judkins, a former NBA player, affectionately compared Bailey to former Detroit Piston Rick Mahorn, who was known for his physical play.
The Cougars (25-5), the tournament's No. 2 seed, have won nine consecutive games and the No. 3 Tigers (18-11) have won seven of their last eight games.
The way Judkins sees it, BYU and Pacific have been on a collision course throughout the regular season.
“They’re playing with a lot of confidence,” Judkins said of the Tigers. “It’s going to be a great game. I think both of us knew this would happen after we played them up there, that we would be meeting again. Hopefully we can come out on top like we did at their place.”
Pacific is led by guard KiKi Moore, who averages 15.7 points per game. Moore earned first-team All-WCC honors and poured in a game-high 28 points against Portland in Friday’s quarterfinals. Center Kendall Kenyon averages 16.5 points and 10.5 rebounds per game.
“Their point guard is really good. We’ve got to do a good job on her and not let her get to the basket,” Judkins said. “Jen helps a lot with that because of her presence in the paint.”
The winner of Monday's semifinal meets the winner of Gonzaga and St. Mary's in the tournament championship game Tuesday.
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company