Jeff Judkins patiently waited years for the chance become a head basketball coach.

Now, in his first year at the helm of BYU's women's program, he's finding that he still needs to be patient. "I want us to be good so fast," Judkins said.

Not that the Cougars are playing badly. BYU (10-5 overall, 1-1 in the Mountain West Conference) is expected to contend for the league title. Judkins has high standards.

Watching his team lose 81-64 last week at home in its conference-opener to MWC favorite Colorado State was difficult. But BYU bounced back a couple of days later to defeat Wyoming, 81-65.

It's still early in conference play, but Judkins knows his team's upcoming three games — starting Thursday night at New Mexico — are critical.

The Cougars face the Lobos at 7 p.m., and will visit Air Force Saturday afternoon. Next week, BYU plays at arch-rival Utah.

"We've got to win two of three of those games to have a chance to win the conference," Judkins said.

After that, the Cougars will play five of their following seven games at home.

New Mexico (12-4, 1-1) is led by center Jordan Adams, who averages 17.1 points per game. BYU defeated the Lobos at The Pit a year ago for the first time since 1994.

"I think the fact we won there last year will give our team some confidence because I know that playing at The Pit is no easy task for any team," Judkins said.

Junior guard Erin Thorn is having another outstanding year, averaging 18.3 points per game. She broke out of a mini-slump by scoring 23 points against the Cowgirls. Thorn's backcourt mate, Stacy Jensen, is averaging 10.6 points.

Judkins is especially pleased with the play of forward Jennifer Leitner, who is averaging 11.4 points and 8.1 rebounds per contest. "She's a complete player," he said.

Senior Melanie Pearson (9.7 ppg) and freshman Danielle Cheesman (7.7 ppg) have made solid contributions off the bench.

The key for the rest of the season is constancy, according to Judkins.

"We've lost some games we should have won," he said. "On the other side we've had moments where we've played very good. I want to us to play more consistent."


E-mail: jeffc@desnews.com