PROVO — With just over 13 minutes remaining in her team's first-round WNIT game Wednesday, BYU point guard Haley Steed appeared to have had enough. Idaho State had just cut the Cougar lead to 38-35, but Steed subsequently led a 13-3 run that all but buried the Bengals and helped the Cougars coast to a 69-54 victory.
Steed finished with 20 points, including nine during the decisive second-half run. It was exactly the type of effort coach Jeff Judkins has come to expect from his senior point guard and team leader.
“Haley is one of the best competitors I’ve ever been around,” Judkins said. “You’re lucky as a coach to coach someone like that. ... When it got down to three points Haley gathered the troops, ran a couple of plays we knew we could score on, executed it and she made some big shots for us.”
Steed’s first big shot during the run came right after she missed on a free-throw attempt — her only miss from the stripe on the night. Following an offensive rebound Steed kicked out to receive the ball behind the arc, pumped once to get a defender out of the way and calmly swished the attempt.
She capped off the decisive run with another 3-pointer, while junior Jennifer Hamson added two buckets in between.
Hamson finished with a career-high 25 points, tied her season-high mark of five blocked shots and generally created all sorts of problems for the Bengals inside the paint.
“Our size was a huge advantage tonight, obviously,” Judkins said. “They were double-teaming (Hamson) a lot and she did a good job of getting some quick baskets and did a good job passing out of it.”
BYU struggled with its execution for all of the first half and the first seven minutes or so in the second before Steed and Hamson took over. Idaho State employed an aggressive man-on-man defensive scheme and hit enough big shots to keep the game close through almost 27 minutes of play.
The Bengals were led by Ashleigh Vella, who finished with a team-high 15 points.
“I felt like we did a pretty good job the first 30 minutes,” said Idaho State coach Seton Sobolewski. “We cut it to three with about 10 minutes but then we really hit a cold spell and couldn’t hit shots. I’m proud of our effort and how our season turned out. We played well tonight.”
BYU also received key contributions from its bench.
“Ashley Garfield and Morgan Bailey, off the bench, were very effective tonight,” Judkins said. “I thought tonight was probably the best performance by our bench all season. We needed them to play big and allow our starters a good rest.”
With the win the Cougars advance to the second round where they’ll take on San Diego State on Saturday at the Marriott Center.
“We’re excited to be playing. We’re not taking it lightly and we want to win this tournament,” Steed said. “For me this is my last hurrah, so I want to play as many games as possible. I think we’re excited and we’re going to play our hardest.”