PROVO — A potentially challenging matchup turned into another blowout victory for the BYU women's basketball team Thursday night, as the Cougars pulled away in the second half to beat Pepperdine, 80-56 at the Marriott Center.
The win was the fourth in a row for BYU (15-3, 4-1 West Coast Conference) and marked its 14th victory over the last 15 games. It also was a milestone win for head coach Jeff Judkins, who became the winningest women's coach in BYU history, with 220 wins.
He also has the best winning percentage in BYU women's basketball history, coming out on top 66 percent of the time. Judkins surpassed Courtney Leishman — who coached the Cougars for 12 seasons from 1977-89 — in both categories.
"That just means I've had great players and great assistant coaches," Judkins, who is in his 11th season as head coach, said. "And of course, the administration has been great to believe in me, give me a chance and let me run the program like I want to. To be able to be good at it also helps. Winning makes me happy."
BYU's play was ragged early, as Pepperdine (8-8, 3-2) applied pressure and caused 10 first-half Cougar turnovers. Despite that, BYU took a 37-27 halftime lead. Even with that, Cougars point guard Haley Steed said the advantage wasn't enough.
"They are a running team, so we knew that a ten-point lead could go away quickly," Steed said.
After the game, both Judkins and center Jennifer Hamson — who failed to score in the first twenty minutes — talked about the discussion between the two at halftime.
"I got on to her because I thought she was playing timid," Judkins said.
Hamson — who finished the game with five blocks — found the talk with her coach useful.
"He challenged me and I try to take that to heart," Hamson said. "It was time to be aggressive, and my teammates got me the ball in the right spots."
With BYU up 45-36, Hamson scored on four straight possessions, going on a personal 9-2 run. Judkins said he didn't have to do any coaching in that instance; the team took care of that.
"I didn't have to tell them anything," Judkins said. "They saw the mismatch, they read the defense and got the ball to her. It was all them."
Hamson finished the game with 13 points, all in the second half.
When the BYU 13-2 scoring spurt was complete, the Cougars were in control, possessing a 58-38 lead.
Steed ran her troops to perfection on the court, finishing with a career-high 14 assists, to go along with 11 points. Her assist total was also the sixth highest in a single game in BYU history.
"Every game plan is different and teams are going to take away different things, but when we're playing a team that runs so much, it's easy to get assists," Steed said.
BYU cruised the rest of the way, hitting three straight three-pointers (Kristen Riley's shot was sandwiched between a pair by Stephanie Vermunt), as they finished the game strong.
Lexi Eaton contributed 15 points and seven rebounds, while Vermunt put in 12 points. Kristen Riley had nine points and eight rebounds, Dani Peterson pulled down seven rebounds and had six points, and Kim Parker had nine points.
Pepperdine's Lauren Bell had a game-high 16 points, and teammate Jazmine Jackson put in 14 while grabbing six rebounds.
The Cougars play at San Diego on Saturday and Loyola Marymount on Thursday, before returning home to host Portland on Saturday.