It’s going to be a little more than a year before Brigham Young and Gonzaga square off in a West Coast Conference game but the Bulldogs’ women’s basketball team sent a message on Tuesday night – not in our house.
With a near flawless second half, Gonzaga routed the Cougars, who leave the Mountain West Conference for the WCC next season, 91-64 before 3,582 fans at McCarthey Athletic Center.
“Everyone was just so jacked up to play BYU, it’s a league game essentially. It’s just a different feel to those kind of games.,” GU junior forward Kelly Bowen said after scoring a season-high 14 points. “I have been rebounding and defending well. I think that is the last piece of the puzzle so it felt good to put it all together.”
Her teammates pretty much did the same. Kayla Standish had 16 of her game-high 22 points in the first half while Katelan Redmon had 15 of her 20 in the second. Janelle Bekkering also had 14.
“Just running in transition and getting those open looks early,” said Bekkering, who had GU’s first seven points. “I just got the shots today and knocked them down. Sometimes you get shots, sometimes you don’t. It just depends on the flow of the game.”
Only All-American point guard Courtney Vandersloot didn’t reach double figures but she had her usual nine assists to go with eight points.
“We definitely have a Big Three but when we have others step up … Kelly and Janelle combined for 28,” GU coach Kelly Graves said. “Those other three are averaging about 52, so if we get that kind of production, we’ll be tough.”
The Cougars (8-4), who had a five-game winning streak, trailed 44-39 when they scored the first basket of the second half but when the Bulldogs (9-3) used an 9-0 run for a 56-40 lead, veteran coach Jeff Judkins called his second timeout of the half. BYU’s defensive average is 56 and there was still 15:12 to play.
“I think what happened is we came out in the second half and they just out-toughed us,” he said. They executed really well and got some easy baskets, they stepped up a notch defensively and we didn’t respond to that.
“I’m just disappointed my team didn’t compete better. They’re better than that.”
Then the Bulldogs, who have won seven straight, promptly ran off 13 straight points to lead 69-42 with 11:20 to play.
“I was really, really excited about how well executed offensively all night long, but particularly that first six or seven minutes of the second half,” Graves raved. “It warms my heart as a coach.
“But I think where the difference was made was on the defensive end. …We played with a little bit more energy in that first six or seven minutes than we did any time during the first half.”
The Bulldogs led for all but 16 seconds of the first half, when Dani Peterson got open inside and Mindy Bonham found her for an easy basket and 22-21 BYU lead. But Standish came right back with a 15-foot jumper. She made her first five shots and four free throws, showing range and confidence that is growing every day.
Then came the complete destruction of a team that only lost its season-opener at No. 3 Duke 69-54.
BYU had a season-high 21 turnovers, turned into 22 GU points, and allowed the Bulldogs to shoot 53.6 percent, the first opponent to hit more than half its shots, made easy 22 assists on 37 baskets. Meanwhile, the Zags, who only had six turnovers, one in the second half, held the Cougars to 37.5 percent, and the team that is third in the nation with eight 3-pointers a game on 33 percent shooting was just 4 of 17 behind the arc, missing their last 10.
“I think we’re nearly there,” Bowen said. “Coach said that’s the best he’s seen us play. … If we’re not there right now, we’re pretty close.”
Coriann Fraughton, who had a large contingent of fans from Connell, led BYU with 16 points and Mindy Bonham had 15.
The Bulldogs have an unusual noon game on Thursday against Cal State Fullerton.