They want to win the tournament. We’ll have to be ready to play and we’ll have tough matchups. —BYU head coach Jeff Judkins
West Coast Conference Tournament
No. 2 BYU (19-10) vs. No. 7 San Diego (13-15)
Friday, 3 p.m. MST Orleans Arena
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
LAS VEGAS — If the BYU women’s basketball team wants to advance to the NCAA tournament for a school-record fourth consecutive time, the Cougars know they must capture the West Coast Conference tournament championship.
BYU (19-10), the No. 2 seed, will take on No. 7 San Diego in the quarterfinals Friday (3 p.m., MST, BYUtv) at Orleans Arena.
The Toreros beat No. 10 seed Portland 74-47 Thursday afternoon in a first-round matchup.
“We have to win the (WCC) tournament. Last year we knew if we could get to the (WCC) semis we’d probably go (to the NCAAs),” said Cougar coach Jeff Judkins. “But these girls have done it before. They want to win the tournament. We’ll have to be ready to play and we’ll have tough matchups. This league was very close. (Top seed) Gonzaga won three games on last-second shots and we lost two. It will be a real good battle. I’m pretty honest. I told them, ‘You’ve got to win this tournament if you want to go the NCAA tournament.’”
Senior guard Makenzi Pulsipher is confident that her team is capable of taking home the title.
“I don’t expect anything less. It’s not a ‘I hope,’ it’s ‘I know we can,’” she said. “Especially being a senior, to go again (to the NCAAs) would be the ultimate goal. Once you get a taste of what that’s like, it’s hard to be fine with anything less.”
BYU is riding a wave of momentum, having won six of its last seven games, including last Saturday’s 71-63 home victory over league champion Gonzaga.
“We proved as a team what we’re capable of. It showed that we had resilience,” Pulsipher said. “It’s the kind of team we’ve had in our minds since the beginning of the year. We’re really jelling and we’re able to play well together in times of adversity.”
The Cougars lost at Gonzaga 87-52 on Feb. 2 before beating them last weekend.
“It gave us a lot of confidence,” Judkins said of last Saturday’s victory. “At least it gave me confidence that if we go out and play our game and play as aggressively as we did we can beat the team that ended up winning it this year, Gonzaga. It was good getting the bad taste out of our mouths (after) getting blown out at their place.”
“From winning this last game, we’ve been able to beat every team at least once,” said Kalani Purcell. “Going into the conference tournament, we know we can beat every team. Everyone’s going to step up their game up so we have to step up our game another level as well.”
Last year, BYU entered the tournament as the No. 1 seed and fell in the championship game to San Francisco.
“We know we’ll probably go against them in the tournament,” Pulsipher said of the Dons. “We expect to play them. We’ll be ready for them and any team. It’s having the mindset that every team is a good team. You can’t look at any team any less. It’s a fun time of the season and this is what we worked for. It’s fun to be that much closer to the tournament and to the Big Dance.”
This season, BYU swept the regular-season series against San Diego, beating the Toreros 81-63 in Provo and 65-47 in San Diego.
“We match up pretty well with them,” said Judkins. “Kalani causes a lot of issues with her size and what she can do in the post and what she can do driving it. We’ve played very well against San Diego. That was probably one of our best games at San Diego. They’re playing good. They almost beat Gonzaga. It’s going to be a tough matchup.”