PROVO — The BYU women's basketball team continued its hot start in the early season with an impressive 83-58 win over visiting Pepperdine on Thursday, a win that carried some good emotion and momentum throughout.
Cougar sophomore guard Paisley Johnson addressed the media immediately following the game and was all smiles. "As a team, we've really come together," she said. "As a team, it's really fun to play."
Coming together in earnest in Thursday's win was the Cougars' guard play. All three starting guards scored over 20 points, with Johnson leading the way with 24, Brenna Chase adding 23 and freshman Shaylee Gonzales scoring another 22, with all three shooting at least 50 percent from the field.
"Having three guards each with 20 points. You couldn't be happier with that," Chase said.
Chase was effective throughout, but provided a particular lift early, hitting on her first three 3-point attempts in the first quarter to get her team off to an early 26-16 lead after the game's first 10 minutes. The junior guard continued to prove effective throughout while adding seven assists and two steals.
Gonzales matched Chase's seven assists and also contributed three steals, several of which helped fuel three big runs that all but decided the outcome.
The first big run helped the Cougars establish a big early lead, with the second one helping re-establish an even bigger lead midway through the third quarter.
Up 42-33 early in the third quarter, BYU set off on an 11-0 run that built a commanding 53-33 lead with just under four minutes remaining in the quarter.
That was the good news. The bad was Pepperdine responding with its own 11-0 run to cut the lead to 53-44 toward the end of the third quarter.
"You never want to lose a (big) lead like that, but in some ways it was good to lose a lead like that and then have some momentum to come back," said BYU coach Jeff Judkins. "I have to give (my players) a lot of credit for that. I don't want to do it all the time, but I think it shows a lot of character from them."2 comments on this story
Indeed, Judkins' team bounced back, playing at its best about the middle of the fourth quarter where a 13-0 run extended the lead to 76-53 with just 2:30 remaining. As usual in the win, it was the defense that fueled the spurt, with players getting hands on balls leading to effective run-outs and relatively prime scoring opportunities.
"I think our defense is huge to fuel our offense," Chase said. "I think that's where we get most of our runs is through our defensive stops, and we gain energy and that helps us on the other end."
With the win, BYU improves to 11-3 on the early season and will next match up against Loyola Marymount on Saturday at the Marriott Center.