West Coast Conference Tournament semifinals
No. 2 BYU (20-10) vs. No. 3 Saint Mary’s (19-11)
Monday, 3 p.m. MST, Orleans Arena
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
LAS VEGAS — When the BYU women's basketball team faces Saint Mary’s in the West Coast Conference semifinals, Cougar coach Jeff Judkins expects a physical battle.
“Saint Mary’s is real physical," he said. "We have to do a really good job in not fouling them. We lost to Saint Mary’s (earlier this season) because of that. The nice thing is, we have two days to recover to get rest. You’ll probably see me play a bigger lineup. It will be tough. It will be a dogfight.”
Could fatigue become an issue when second-seeded BYU and No. 3 Saint Mary's meet Monday (3 p.m. MST, BYUtv) at Orleans Arena?
The Cougars needed overtime to beat San Diego in the WCC quarterfinals last Friday. BYU's Cassie Broadhead and Kalani Purcell played 45 minutes each in the win over USD.
The Gaels, meanwhile, defeated Santa Clara 60-57 last Thursday in the quarterfinals.
Judkins isn’t worried about Purcell’s energy.
“That kid’s a horse. That kid’s Karl Malone,” Judkins said of Purcell. “People say, ‘What is strength?’ That’s what it is right there. When you’re strong like that, your body can take the punishment. I try to hold her out and she says, ‘Coach, I’m playing.’”
Purcell, the WCC Defensive Player of the Year, scored 20 points, grabbed 16 rebounds, dished out four assists and had three blocks against San Diego. She hit 9 of 14 shots from the field.
“Kalani causes a lot of problems for (Saint Mary’s), probably more than anybody, because she’s so strong, she can rebound and she can put the ball on the floor,” Judkins said. “They can’t pack it in all the time."
Cassie Broadhead, the WCC Player of the Year, had 22 points and knocked down a 3-pointer with 11 seconds left in regulation that forced the game against USD into overtime.
“A tired Cassie is better than a fresh somebody else,” Judkins said. “That’s how I look at it.”
Makenzi Pulsipher, who was 3 of 11 from the field, including 1 of 6 from 3-point range, recorded 16 points while playing 37 minutes despite being in foul trouble much of the game.
“Cassie gets more worn down,” Judkins said. “Makenzi’s kind of a miracle kid. She doesn’t get tired. She just gets beat up physically.”
BYU and Saint Mary's split their series during the regular season, with BYU winning a 70-65 decision at home on Jan. 5. In Moraga on Feb. 18, the Gaels earned a 64-58 victory.
Saint Mary’s (19-11) has a lot of weapons, but it is led by junior guard Stella Beck, who averages a team-high 13.6 points, 3.1 assists and 1.6 steals per game. Forward Megan McKay averages a team-high 7.9 rebounds per game.
“They’ve got five kids who can shoot it, so you can’t help off of them,” Judkins said of the Gaels. “Then they do a really good job of getting fouled. I don’t know what it is. They know how to get fouled. If we can keep them off the line — they had 27 foul shots at Saint Mary’s, and at our place they had 13. If we can keep that in the teens, we have a good shot.”
Both BYU (20-10) and Saint Mary’s had to overcome halftime deficits in the quarterfinals. The Cougars trailed the Toreros 36-25 at intermission while the Gaels fell behind the Broncos at the midway point, 32-23. BYU battled back from an 18-point deficit in the first quarter.
The winner of Monday’s BYU-Saint Mary’s semifinal will advance to Tuesday’s championship game against either No. 1 seed Gonzaga or No. 4 San Francisco.