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January 25, 2012 at 6:38 PM

Game thread: No. 23 BYU at Seattle U.

REDHAWKS LOSE: SU went on a quick 12-4 run to pull within 67-55. Too bad there was only 1:10 remaining in the game. Not enough time for an upset, SU losing 69-55 on Wednesday. The Redhawks never used their athleticism to their advantage and coach Joan Bonvicini called her team “timid” for majority of the game. BYU is good and balanced, but SU could have challenged it more. Instead, the Cougars are on an eight-game win streak. SU, which only has three home games remaining this season, hits the road to play at UW-Milwaukee and Portland State next week. Ward led the Redhawks (12-9) against BYU with 18 points while Sowell had 15 points and 16 rebounds for her 10th double-double of the season. The Cougars (19-3) continue their three-game road trip at Santa Clara on Saturday. BYU was led by Riley’s 16 points and 10 rebounds while Parker had 15 and Vermunt finished with 14, including four made three-pointers. “They’re a really good team and they’re balanced,” Bonvicini said. “And they have good depth. They’re well-deserved of their ranking. They’re maybe the best team that we’ve faced so far this year and it shows in our defensive field goal percentage (28.6 percent). You’ve got to give them credit. But I like the way we ended the game. I didn’t like a lot, but I like how we ended.” Down the road, SU will play No. 4 Stanford on the road. Bonvicini hopes the BYU experience was a lesson learned. “Respecting your opponent, but not fearing them, that was one of the lessons today,” she said.
SPOTTED: Among the usual Washington supporters was former PG Sara Morton, who chopped all of her hair off. Very chic. Didn’t get a chance to talk to her for the latest, sorry.
HALFTIME: Part of the game plan was rebounding and SU is doing a solid job, outrebounding BYU 20-15. Problem is the Redhawks aren’t getting offense outside of Ward’s 13 points. The SU bench is getting outscored 13-0 and the team is shooting 26.9 percent from the field overall. Vermunt leads BYU with nine points while Riley and Parker have eight points apiece. SU is down 36-22 at the break.
THREE CITY: The Cougars aren’t having to do much on offense with the way the three-pointers are dropping. BYU has nailed six three-pointers to take a 33-20 lead with 3:02 remaining in the half. On defense, the Cougs are blocking shots (three) and getting into the rebounding battle. Aside from getting blocked, SU is simply missing open opportunities. If those fall, the game won’t be so one-sided. Sophomore wing Stephanie Vermunt leads BYU with three three-pointers off the bench.
ICE BLOCK: Ward is hot, even showing a little dribbling skills before nailing a circus shot in the paint, but she’s the only Redhawk to hit a FG in the game. Ward is 5-for-6 from the field and her teammates are 0-for-11. No wonder SU is down 25-17 with 6:47 remaining.
TRE BIEN: Having trouble breaking into the zone, the Cougars are swinging the ball around the perimeter and finally knocking down some three-pointers to build a 19-10 lead with 9:52 left in the half. It’s still a moderate-paced game.
NO THREAT: Some may look at BYU sophomore C Jennifer Hamson as a threat because of her 6-foot-7 stature. SU is one of the few teams in the country already prepared for that height, stashing a 6-7 freshman C Jessie Williamson on their roster. A pair of Rhea FTs brought SU within 11-10 with 12:46 left in the half.
ONE SHOT: The pace is moderate and SU is limiting BYU to one-shot opportunities to help hold onto an early 6-4 lead with 15:50 on the clock in the first half. SU is outrebounding BYU 7-2. Ward is providing the offense with driving layins while Rhea has picked up a steal. The Redhawks are shooting 28.6 percent from the field, though.
Asked BYU’s radio host Ty Brandenburg to tell me the latest on the Cougars and he was succinct. “We’re hot,” he said.
No doubt. BYU, playing in its first season in the West Coast Conference, is on a seven-game win streak led by freshman G Lexi Eaton. The 6-footer leads three players averaging in double figures, averaging 10.6 points. C Kristen Riley adds 10.6 with 6.9 rebounds.
But you can’t overlook Seattle University. True, the Cougars are the biggest program the Redhawks have faced this season since probably a 72-53 loss to Washington in November. But SU hardly whimpers in the light. The Redhawks (12-8) have won six of their past eight games, including a 86-58 decision against UC Irvine on the road Sunday.
Both teams can shoot and defend. But Seattle U. needs to watch its ball handling against BYU’s bigger lineup. The Cougars average 10.2 steals and 6.0 blocks a game.
BYU’s presence in the WCC has brought some national recognition. It joins No. 22 Gonzaga in the Associated Press rankings — the first time the WCC has had two teams ranked. BYU (18-3) is returning to the polls for the first time since 2006, its highest being 18th in November.
Will it be a short stay due to a Seattle U upset? Let’s get you ready with the starting lineups:
COUGARS
F Dani Peterson
F Kim Parker
C Kristen Riley
G Haley Steed
G Lexi Eaton
REDHAWKS
F Ashley Ward
F Sylvia Shephard
C Kacie Sowell
G Elle Kerfoot
G Talisa Rhea
Tonight’s officials are Lisa Jones, Wanda Szeremeta and Bob Scofield.

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