PROVO — Any team wants to be playing at its best right before the postseason, and for the BYU women's basketball team, it appears to be in fine form with one game left to play in the regular season. The Cougars ran all over visiting San Francisco on Thursday, winning 82-59 in a game where BYU coach Jeff Judkins was able to empty his bench and give his regulars some much-deserved rest.
"We didn't start the game as good as we normally (do), but we went through spurts in the first half where we played really well," Judkins said.
Two spurts in particular put the Dons on their heels, with the first coming on a 7-0 run to end the first quarter and give the Cougars a 21-15 lead. Junior guard Brenna Chase was key during the run, playing effectively from the point to manage the action throughout.
"Brenna came out in the first of the game and kind of took it over," Judkins said.
Chase finished the first half with 13 points and no turnovers.
The second spurt came at the end of the second quarter, just as San Francisco started to work its way back into the game to trail just 28-27 with 6:26. Those 27 points proved to be all it would score for the remainder of the half, however, as the Cougars finished on a 13-0 run to go up by a comfortable 14-point margin at the break.
Key in the final first half run was Sara Hamson, who looked as good as she has all year, pulling down 11 rebounds and scoring four points.
"She's gotten a lot better and she's way more active," Judkins said of Hamson. "She's rebounding and she's a force inside when rolling to the basket and she's finishing ... It's made a real big difference."
Hamson has had to work her way back into form after suffering a torn meniscus last fall. While the injury was frustrating, the 6-foot-7 sophomore has made notable strides late in the season.
"It's been pretty gradual, but every day is better and I'm feeling (better) timing-wise," Hamson said of recovering from her injury. "I feel that was the hardest part — the timing and the flow of the game. It's been frustrating, especially early on, but it's now as rewarding as it is frustrating."
Hamson finished with 12 rebounds, nine points and four blocked shots. Also contributing big for the Cougars was Shaylee Gonzales, who finished with 16 points, and Paisley Johnson, who added 15.
The Cougars didn't let up in the second half, with the Dons never seriously challenging, as Judkins was able to empty his bench for most of the fourth quarter.5 comments on this story
"It's so nice because they've worked so hard and they're as big a part of the team as the girls who have been playing," Judkins said. "...Tonight they came out and played with a lot of intensity and executed well ... I thought they played just as well as the kids who started, and as a coach, that's very rewarding."
With the win, BYU improves to 22-6 on the year and 14-3 in West Coast Conference play. The Cougars will finish up the regular season taking on Santa Clara at home on Saturday.