Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Brigham Young Cougars center Jennifer Hamson (5) competes for a rebound with Pacific Tigers forward Kendall Kenyon (10) during the West Coast Conference Championships in Las Vegas Monday, March 10, 2014.
We match up well and their team is very similar to ours. The way they play and how they do it (is similar). —BYU coach Jeff Judkins

PROVO — The No. 12-seeded BYU women’s basketball team (26-6) is set to take on No. 5 seed North Carolina State (25-7) in the first round of the NCAA tournament this Saturday at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles. The two teams haven’t played since 2005, but the Cougars feel a lot of familiarity with the Wolfpack regardless.

After pouring over film the week leading up to the game, coaches and players saw a Wolfpack team that plays a very similar brand of basketball to what the Cougars play.

“We match up well and their team is very similar to ours,” observed BYU coach Jeff Judkins. “The way they play and how they do it (is similar).”

The starkest similarity involves the starting centers. BYU features 6-foot-7 senior Jen Hamson while North Carolina presents 6-foot-5 senior Markeisha Gatling. Both players lead their teams from the post, and Judkins believes whoever wins that specific matchup will go a long way in determining the outcome.

“Whoever has the best game between those two would be a big plus to their team,” Judkins said. “That includes foul trouble, that includes rebounding and setting a presence for their team.”

Hamson is playing the best ball of her career entering the matchup and looks forward to the opportunity.

“I’m excited. It will be an exciting matchup,” Hamson said. “She’s a good back to the basket player and goes to a one-dribble move a lot of the time, but she’s just a good player.”

The similarities don’t end with the centers. Through film study, Judkins observed similarities at most positions and with how North Carolina State runs its offense.

The Wolfpack enter the game on the heels of a tough loss to undefeated Notre Dame in the ACC Conference semifinals 83-48.

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“We’re excited to play an ACC team,” Judkins said. “That was the second-best conference in the country, so it’s exciting to play someone of that caliber and hopefully we’ll be able to show people what we’re made of.”

Players feel confident in the matchup and believe if they simply play their game that they'll advance to the next round.

“We need to come out aggressive and confident,” said senior guard Kim Beeston. “When we come out aggressive and confident in our style of basketball, I don’t think a lot of teams can beat us.”

BYU will tip off against North Carolina State at 4:30 MDT at Pauley Pavilion. The game will be televised live on ESPN2.


Twitter: @BrandonCGurney