The stalwart BYU defense and 28 points from tournament MVP Lexi Eaton Rydalch proved to be enough for the Cougars to upset No. 11 Texas A&M, 72-64, in the third and final game of the Tom Weston Classic held on the campus of BYU-Hawai’i on Saturday.
“This was a great defensive effort and a huge win for our program,” BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said. “Everyone came in and did what they were supposed to do. Lexi had probably one of her best all-around games. Makenzi did a great job defending their top player. Kylie had another tremendous game and she handled their pressure. She did a great job.”
The Cougars (6-3) put on a defensive show as they held the Aggies (7-2) to their lowest number of points scored this season, limiting their leading scorers, Courtney Williams and Courtney Walker, to just 9-of-25 shooting.
Rydalch finished the contest with a game-high 28 points, seven rebounds, three assists and one steal. Her 28 points was her fifth 20-point outing of the year, and she now has a 22.6 point season scoring average. Makenzi Morrison Pulsipher added 16 points, going 2-for-6 from behind the arc, and Kalani Purcell chipped in 12 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists to record her fourth double-double of the season.
The Cougars struck first on a 3-pointer by Purcell to go up 3-0, giving her a made 3-point field goal in the last three games. Teams traded baskets on the next few possessions with a long jumper and a fast break layup coming from Pulsipher and a jumper on the other side of the floor by Aggie Khaalia Hillsman to make the score 7-4 in BYU’s favor. Pulsipher put the Cougars up 11-6 on an 18-foot jumper from the top of the key at the 5:41 mark. Pulsipher had six of the Cougars first 11 points.
Purcell kept the Cougars five-point lead alive as she grabbed her own rebound and put it back in the basket to give BYU the 15-10 advantage. Purcell finished the period with five points and a game-high six rebounds.
BYU kept their lead throughout the final minutes of the first period, going into the second 10 minutes of action up five, 17-12. The Cougars shot 50.0 percent from the field, going 8-for-16 in the first 10 minutes of play, while the Aggies shot a field goal percentage of 42.9.
The Aggies started off the second period with a layup by Chelsea Jennings to cut the Cougars lead to three, 17-14, but BYU responded with four-straight points by sophomore forward Amanda Wayment to go up 21-16. Texas A&M then brought on the full-court press to try to slow the Cougar tempo, forcing a BYU turnover and then consequently a Cougar timeout as the Aggies came within two, 21-19.
At the 5:17 mark, Oahu native Kylie Maeda hit a 3-pointer from the top of the arc to push BYU’s lead back up to three, 26-23. Texas A&M regained the lead with a 3-point field goal of its own to put the Aggies up 28-27 with 2:27 to go in the half. Rydalch tied the game up, 31-31, with a minute and a half to go in the second period on a pull-up jumper off the glass. On the next play, the Cougars recaptured their lead off a Pulsipher three, her first of the game. Rydalch led all scorers going into halftime with 11 points while Pulsipher added nine.
Texas A&M outscored BYU, 19–17, in the second period of play, but the Cougars were able to hold on to their lead going into the break, 34-31. BYU shot 7-for-8 from the free-throw line through 20 minutes of play, while Texas A&M went 2-for-4 from the charity stripe.
Teams traded baskets at the start of the third period, but BYU then went on a 9-0 run as Rydalch finished an acrobatic layup followed up by a deep 3-point field goal to give the Cougars their largest lead in the game so far, 43-33. After an Aggie layup, Purcell tallied her fourth assist finding Jasmine Moody cutting through the lane at the 5:42 mark to keep BYU up 10, 45-35.
The Aggies pulled within six, 45-39, as they put on their full-court pressure again, forcing key BYU turnovers. Rydalch, who scored 12 points in the third period alone, extended the Cougars lead to eight with 2:36 to go, giving her 23 points through three periods of play.
Rydalch started off the last 10 minutes of action converting a three-point play to give the Cougars a nine-point advantage over the Aggies, 55-46. On the next BYU possession, Purcell slipped past two Texas A&M defenders for the easy lay in, to give her nine points for the game. The Aggies then cut the lead down to five at the 5:31 mark on a layup by Courtney Williams and then kept the pressure on by forcing two-straight Cougar turnovers to cut the lead to one, 62-61, with 3:51 to go.
On the next possession, Maeda went 1-of-2 from the foul line pushing the Cougar lead back up to two, 63-61. The Aggies then pushed the ball up the court, missing a layup and fouling Purcell on the rebound, sending her to the line, where she went 1-for-2.
The Cougars proceeded to work deep into the shot clock on each of their final possessions. Rydalch pulled down a key offensive rebound giving the Cougars another vital possession in which Purcell was fouled and sent to the free-throw line. Purcell made both free throws to put BYU up 66-62 with 2:12 to go in the game. Purcell then stole the ball with 53 seconds left and pushed the ball up to Pulsipher for the easy left hand lay in to give the Cougars the six point lead that proved large enough to knock off the No. 11 Aggies.
BYU committed just 14 turnovers in the game to Texas A&M’s 19, with BYU scoring 22 points off Aggie turnovers. The Aggie bench outscored the Cougar bench, 30 to 8, but the Cougars dished out 20 assists to Texas A&M’s 17.
The BYU women’s basketball team returns to Utah to take on in-state opponent Weber State in Ogden on Thursday, Dec. 10. Team introductions and tipoff begins at 7 p.m. MST. Links to live stats and streamed audio for the game can be found on the BYU women’s basketball schedule page.