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Ravell Call, Deseret News
Haley Steed of the Brigham Young Cougars dribbles to the basket against Emily Ben-Jumbo of the Loyola Marymount Lions during the West Coast Conference women's basketball tournament in Las Vegas, March 8.

West Coast Conference tournament

No. 4 BYU (21-9) vs. No. 1 Gonzaga (25-5)

Orleans Arena, Las Vegas

Saturday, 1 p.m., MT


No. 4 BYU 69, No. 5 Loyola Marymount 57

By Jeff Call

Deseret News

LAS VEGAS — Realizing what went wrong in a crushing defeat at Loyola Marymount last week, BYU women's basketball coach Jeff Judkins knew that Friday's rematch in the quarterfinals of the West Coast Conference tournament would be a different story.

Judkins was right.

Forward Stephanie Vermunt Seaborn scored a career-high 21 points on a career-high seven 3-pointers while center Jennifer Hamson turned in a double-double (19 points, 13 rebounds) as the No. 4 seed Cougars cruised past the No. 5 Lions, 69-57, at the Orleans Arena.

"I told them (Seaborn and Hamson) that this was going to be their night," Judkins said.

In all, BYU (21-9) knocked down 13-of-28 3-pointers, including four by Kim Beeston, who chipped in 13 points.

"We took a lot of 3's tonight, but that's what they gave us," Judkins added.

Not only did the Cougars avenge a painful and costly 13-point setback at LMU, but they also advanced to the tournament semifinals. BYU meets top-seed Gonzaga Saturday (1 p.m., MT, BYUtv). The Cougars upset the Zags in the WCC tournament championship game last year.

"Now we've got to get some rest and play the best team in the league," Judkins said. "They have a great team. Kelly (Graves) is a great coach and his teams execute. I wish we had two days to prepare. But we'll be ready."

The Cougars were certainly ready Friday for LMU (13-18), as they built a double-digit lead in the first half and led by as many as 22 points late in the second half.

While senior guard Haley Steed made just 1-of-6 shots from the floor, she dished out five assists and had five steals in 39 minutes of play.

Her teammates contributed in a variety of ways.

"It's nice to see other players step it up," Judkins said. "Haley has carried this team on her back for a long time, and it's nice to see two other players decide to take responsibility."

A week ago, LMU's triangle-and-two defense flummoxed BYU. This time, the Cougars were prepared, and Seaborn and Hamson flourished.

"We knew (the triangle-and-two) was coming, but it's hard to try to execute against it," Judkins. "These two did a great job solving that problem."

"(Judkins) emphasized we were going to get shots," Seaborn said. "The beauty of this team is, we don't care about who gets the shots or anything like that. I just had a mentality that I was going to be open and take my shots."

Seaborn said she was hesitant early on to shoot but soon found her groove. During one stretch in the first half, she drilled three 3-pointers, helping lift BYU from a four-point deficit to a five-point advantage. She finished 7-of-13 from 3-point territory.

"In the first half, there were many times when I was open but I was hesitating because I felt like I should be looking for something else or be looking inside," Seaborn said.

Meanwhile, Hamson had her way in the paint, scoring and rebounding with relative ease. She had seven offensive boards.

All in all, the contest went the way Judkins scripted it.

"I told (Seaborn and Hamson), winning this game would be (based) on how you play today," Judkins said. "I thought they took that challenge and did a great job. I'm real proud of them."

Now comes an even bigger challenge – against WCC powerhouse Gonzaga. BYU lost both regular-season games to the Bulldogs. Gonzaga defeated the Cougars in Provo, 66-55, on Feb. 23.

As the No. 1 seed, the Zags earned a bye all the way to the semifinals.

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"The advantage they have is they're rested. They're not worn out," Judkins said. "The disadvantage they have is, they haven't played in a week. Some teams respond to that, some teams can't. We're going to have to play our best. We had opportunities both times with them. We got down early at their place and fought back. At our place, it was a nip-and-tuck game. We missed opportunities."

"It's important for us to play the whole possession (against Gonzaga) because even if they don't get the first look, they've got a second and a third look," Seaborn said. "They challenge us in that aspect."