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Three in double digits help BYU women's basketball team takes UNM Thanksgiving Tournament title

Kalani Purcell, Kristine Nielson and Makenzi Pulsipher led BYU women’s basketball over Tulsa, 71-56, to capture the UNM Thanksgiving Tournament title Saturday afternoon.

Nielson was named the tournament MVP, and Purcell made the all-tournament team.

“This is a great tournament for this team and the MVP honor is great and well deserved for Kristine,” BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said. “We had a lot of kids play better today.

"Makenzi was solid and consistent as she’s been all year. Kalani had a really good game today. The bench gave us a good lift and defensively we did a good job in picking the ball and making some great stops.”

Nielson was named the MVP as she contributed a career-high 17 points, five rebounds and three assists in the win. She came away shooting 60 percent from the field and 3-point line and 67 percent from the free-throw line.

Purcell led the Cougars in points with 19, assists with six and blocks with two. She shot 9-of-15 from the field and 1-of-3 from the charity stripe.

Pulsipher added 15 points and led the Cougars in rebounds with eight. Cassie Broadhead chipped in seven points and had seven rebounds and four assists on the game.

Layups from Jasmine Moody and Nielson gave the Cougars an early 4-0 lead in the first period. Pulsipher hit a 3-pointer at the 3:46 mark to put BYU up 9-4. With 1:29 to go in the first period, Brenna Chase and Pulsipher hit back-to-back shots leading the Cougars on an 8-0 run. BYU ended the first period leading Tulsa, 17-8.

BYU opened the second quarter with a Pulsipher free throw. Tulsa pulled within seven, 18-11, after hitting its first 3-pointer of the night. On the next play, Nielson drove down the court to go for a layup. Purcell followed right behind taking it to the basket one right after another. But the Golden Hurricane's offense took a stand and went 6-0 to bring them back into the game, 26-22.

Haley Rydalch finished off the half with a layup for her first points of the game. BYU went into the half up 28-22, despite 11 first half turnovers. Pulsipher and Purcell made six of BYU’s 12 first-half field goals and scored 14 of the first 28 points for the Cougars.

The Cougars scored 22 of their 28 points from in the paint and had nine fast break points. BYU also went in to the half leading for 17 minutes of the first 20 minutes.

Purcell started off the third period driving down the inside for another layup. Nielson hit her first 3-pointer of the night after back-to-back layups put Tulsa within four of BYU. The Cougars extended their lead to a 14-point advantage, after going on a 10-0 run. Of those 10 points, Purcell scored five of them with two layups and a free throw. Broadhead scored the other five after she converted a three-point play and hit a pair of foul shots.

BYU kept its lead throughout the remainder of the third period. With 1:32 to go, BYU went on a 7-3 run, with Nielson leading the charge scoring five of the seven points. The Cougars ended the third period up by 18 points, 53-35.

In the third period alone, the Cougars scored 25 points, almost doubling their half time score. Nielson led the quarter scoring eight points, while Purcell added seven and Pulsipher and Broadhead each chipped in five.

The two teams traded the ball back and forth during the last period. Nielson came in hot hitting her third 3-pointer of the night at the 9:26 mark. Layups one right after the other from Purcell, Pulsipher and Moody extended the Cougars lead to 64-43.

With 4:20 to go in the game, a 3-pointer from Tulsa got it going on an 11-5 run, but it wasn’t enough as the Cougars came away with a 71-56 win.

The Cougars continue competing on the road. Next week they head to Wailuku, Hawaii, for the Maui Wahine Classic, Dec. 2-3, where they will play UNLV and Oregon State. The games will be played at the War Memorial Sports Complex.