Brian Nicholson, Deseret Morning News
BYU's Cassie King tries to shoot between a pair of UCLA defenders.

PROVO — "Hallelujah!"

Custom fit for the Christmas season, Mallary Carling's postgame statement reflected a sense of collective relief for the Cougars. Her game-high 16 points paced the BYU women's basketball team through Saturday's 68-58 home victory over UCLA and into an extended holiday break.

With four players in double-figures — the first time that's happened this season — the Cougars (5-6) used a strong start and a solid second half, including 52 percent shooting and a 15-0 run, to down the Bruins (4-5).

"We really needed that," said BYU coach Jeff Judkins, whose team had dropped three of its last four outings. "It would have been a tough holiday."

Carling's effort included three 3-pointers and a team-high nine rebounds. Freshman guard Mindy Nielson tied her career best with 15 points and added a game-high six assists in her first start, while Cassie King contributed a career-tops 13 points and Shawnee Slade added 10.

"UCLA is better than a lot of teams we've lost to," said Judkins, whose team struggled with the Bruins' athleticism at times.

BYU burst out of the gate. All five starters and the first two reserves scored in the first seven minutes en route to a 22-11 lead. BYU went 6-for-12 from the floor and 4-for-7 on 3-pointers in the first five minutes.

"We needed to throw the first couple of punches and set a tone," Carling said.

But familiar Cougar maladies returned — a six-minute scoring drought, complacency, turnovers and poor possessions. In the final 15 minutes of the first half, BYU hit just four of 22 shots — one-of-10 on 3-pointers.

The result — a slim 31-29 Cougar halftime advantage.

After UCLA whittled the deficit to 38-35 early in the second half, King put BYU back into a comfort zone with back-to-back inside buckets.

And when the Bruins soon pulled within two, the Cougars countered with a 15-0 run with a barrage of 3-point plays. The first was a beat-the-shot-clock trey by Slade, who nonchalantly took the ball from inbounds in the backcourt with only a half-dozen seconds to drive and shoot.

"That gave us the momentum, the energy," King said.

Carling followed with a drive for an old-fashioned 3-point play before burying a 3. After two Lauren Varley free throws and one from King, the latter then netted her own 3-pointer for a 59-42 advantage, and UCLA never threatened again.

The Bruins were led by Lindsey Pluimer and Nina Earl, who each scored 13 for UCLA.

BYU is now off until a Dec. 29 game at Utah State.

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