LAS VEGAS — Riding an eight-game winning streak, and with their sights set on an NCAA tournament bid, the No. 2 seed BYU women’s basketball team knows what it needs to do at the West Coast Conference tournament at Orleans Arena.
“We’re on the bubble right now,” said Cougar guard Lexi Eaton. “We don’t want to put our future in someone else’s hands. We want to go out and win the thing and be sure of our future.”
BYU faces No. 10 seed Pepperdine in the quarterfinals of the tournament Friday (3 p.m. MST, BYUtv).
The Waves beat No. 7 Santa Clara Thursday in the first round of the tournament, 80-74.
The Cougars swept the season series against Pepperdine (6-24, 1-17), which won just one conference game in the regular season.
Coach Jeff Judkins is thrilled with the way his team has been playing the past month.
“I think we’re playing some of our best basketball right now. We’re playing with a lot of confidence,” he said. “A lot of players have stepped it up and are playing well. We’re finally getting healthy. It’s working out where we are. We’re excited for the tourney.”
Of course Judkins knows his team has a target on its back because it is the No. 2 seed.
“You can’t look past anybody. You can’t do that,” he said. “You need to be focused and do the things you need to do to win the game.”
If the Cougars win Friday, they’ll face either No. 3 Pacific or No. 6 Portland at 1 p.m. MST Monday. If BYU advances to the championship game, it will likely face top-seeded Gonzaga.
Do the Cougars (24-5) need to win the WCC tournament to get to the NCAA tournament?
“The best thing to do is not put anything in someone else’s hands. As a team, one of our goals is to win the tournament. I think we’ve had a great year,” Judkins said. “This conference deserves two (NCAA bids). We’ve all played tough games to build our RPI and conference RPI up. We’re at 24 wins right now. One or two more wins would really help our resume. Our worst loss right now is the Utah loss. We’ve beaten some good teams. I think we have a great shot, but I don’t know. As a team, we just can’t worry about it. We’ve just got to play and win the tournament.”
The Cougars like the way they have been playing the past month.
“We’ve figured out how to play together and be aggressive,” said WCC Player of the Year Jennifer Hamson. “That’s really helped us. We’ve focused on turnovers and we’ve brought those down and increase our free-throw percentage. Those things have helped.”
“Each player has found ways to be more consistent,” Eaton said. “With everybody being more consistent, that’s just built our confidence. We have so many weapons, and when they are working efficiently, we’re a pretty hard team to guard.”
Eaton added that her team is peaking.
“Definitely,” she said. “We’re playing our best basketball, for sure.”
For the Cougars, anything less than winning the WCC tournament would be a disappointment.
“That’s our goal, to be conference champions,” Hamson said. “To get that, we need to win this tournament. I love tournament time. It’s fun to compete.”
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