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BYU advances to first ever WCC championship game

Mar. 3, 2012

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LAS VEGAS, Nev. -- True freshman Lexi Eaton's career-high 26 points pushed the BYU women's basketball team to a 64-46 semifinal victory against San Diego Saturday at the Orleans Arena Saturday.

The win launched the Cougars (25-6, 12-4) into the West Coast Conference Championship game and broke a four-season winless streak in conference tournament play.

"I am just proud of our team," BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said. "We didn't play one of our best first halves, we kind of missed some opportunities, but I thought defensively we did a great job of taking them out of stuff. If you look at their first half, they had zero assists. I am lucky I have good players."

Eaton shattered her previous career high of 16 points set against Kansas State in November, and also contributed six rebounds and shot 52.6 percent from the field. BYU received a boost from its post players as Jennifer Hamson helped out with 10 points and nine rebounds and Kristen Riley added 10 rebounds and seven points.

"(Eaton) has some confidence I don't think a lot of freshmen have," Riley said. "That's what we needed tonight, we needed someone to take over and she did that. She's great."

The Cougars totaled 30 points in the paint to USD's 12 and scored 18 points off the Toreros' 15 turnovers. BYU shot 42 percent from the field during the game and held USD to 25 percent.

BYU got out to a four-point lead after eight minutes of play, but couldn't shake off the Toreros. USD tied up the game at 17-17 with 7:08 left in the half. Riley and Eaton layups pushed the Cougars back to their four-point lead and Riley capped off the 8-2 BYU run with a 3-pointer to bring the score to 21-15.

Back-to-back Eaton layups in the final minute sent the Cougars to the locker room with a 29-21 lead, their largest of the half.

Eaton had a game-high 13 points at the half on 50 percent shooting. Riley led on the boards with seven and had three blocks. The Cougars shot 35.5 percent from the field in the first half while holding USD to only 23.3 percent shooting.

The freshman guard continued to deliver in the second half, with six points in the first four minutes from a trey, a layup and a free throw. The Cougars' rapid scoring put BYU ahead 39-25 with 15:34 on the clock.

An 8-0 BYU run, including two straight Hamson layups, secured the win by bouncing the Cougars ahead by 19 at the 15-minute mark. The team finished 18 points ahead of the Toreros.

"I want to congratulate San Diego," Judkins said. "They have a really good team. We have been very lucky to have beaten them three times. They play hard and they are very physical. The game was physical tonight and I just want to congratulate them, they will definitely be going somewhere."

After splitting the regular season with Gonzaga, BYU will rematch against the Bulldogs Monday at noon in the WCC tournament final.

"Last time we played them (Gonzaga), we weren't ready to play and we are ready for them now," Eaton said. "We want to throw the first punch this time and put them back on their heels and just play like we know how to play. We didn't play like that the last time we played them."

-Courtesy of BYU Athletics