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BYU basketball: Pulsipher's 26 lifts Cougars past Gaels

Makenzi Morrison Pulsipher’s game-high 26 points led BYU women’s basketball to a 21-point victory, 65-44, over Saint Mary’s to seal its 12th conference win Saturday afternoon.

"I'm really proud of the girls," BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said. "I think this was one of the best games we played all year, and the win is a huge victory for our program. We started the game strong and made a great effort defensively, especially in the first quarter. Our defense really set the tone for the rest of the game. We had incredible play from our guards. Kenzi, Lexi and Kylie all played wonderfully, and really let their shots come to them."

Pulsipher went 9-for-13 from the field and 7-for-10 from the behind the arc in the game. She also tallied four steals, one rebound and one assist. Teammate Lexi Eaton Rydalch dropped 20 points, pulled down five rebounds, had three steals and dished out two assists in the game, and Kalani Purcell finished the contest with a game-high 10 assists, a game-high nine rebounds and six points.

BYU (20-4, 12-1) ended the contest shooting 41.4 percent from the field and 56.0 percent from the 3-point line, while Saint Mary’s (18-5, 9-3) shot 35.6 and 30.0 percent, respectively. The Cougars had 30 points off turnovers to the Gaels seven and had 16 steals to Saint Mary’s four. With the win, Judkins now has 10 20-win seasons in his Cougar coaching career.

Capitalizing on two early Saint Mary’s turnovers, the Cougars began the game on a 7-0 run backed by a layup by Pulsipher and five points from Rydalch. The Gaels cut the Cougar lead to four, 9-5, at the 6:34 mark on a layup by Sydney Raggio.

Rydalch then increased the BYU lead back to six, 11-5, as she converted her eighth and ninth points of the game off the glass. On the next Cougar possession, Pulsipher converted a four-point play as she made the 3-point field goal and got fouled to extend BYU’s road lead to 10, 15-5. The Cougar’s offense remained strong as Pulsipher hit two more 3-point baskets to give BYU the 21-5 lead with 2:25 to go in the first period.

Pulsipher finished the period with 12 points, going 4-for-4 from the field, and the Gaels’ five points scored in the quarter is the lowest amount of points the Cougar defense has held a team to this year in the first period.

Kylie Maeda hit her first 3-pointer of the game with 8:09 to go in the half to give BYU the 24-7 lead. Maeda then converted another 3-point basket to give the Cougars the 20-point, 27-7 lead.

At the 3:25 mark, Pulsipher hit her fourth 3-point field goal of the game on four attempts to give BYU the 32-13 lead over the Gaels. Saint Mary’s then went on a 5-0 run to cut the Cougar lead to 15, 32-17.

The Cougars finished the period on a 5-0 run to take the 40-19 lead into halftime. BYU hit nine 3-point field goals in the first half, shooting 64.0 percent from behind the arc.

Three Cougars went into halftime in double figures. Pulsipher led all scorers with a game-high 17 points, Rydalch had 12 and Maeda tallied 11. Purcell brought down a game-high nine rebounds and dished out a game-high nine assists in the first 20 minutes of action.

Saint Mary’s struck first in the second half as Lauren Nicholson made a pair of free throws to make the score 40-21. Purcell scored her first points of the game sinking two free throws of her own to give BYU the 44-24 advantage. The Gaels then cut the lead to 15, 46-31, on a Carly Turner 3-point field goal and then to 13, 46-33, on a layup by Stella Beck.

Toward the end of the third, Pulsipher put a stop to the Gaels run converting her fifth 3-point field goal of the contest to keep the BYU lead at 14, 49-35.

The Gaels kept fighting back, opening the fourth period with a layup by Raggio to cut BYU’s lead to 12, 52-40. Pulsipher answered back with her sixth trey in six attempts to take the 55-40 lead. BYU regained the 20-point lead, 60-40, as Pulsipher tallied her seventh 3-point field goal.

Purcell gave the Cougars the 62-41 lead, giving her six points for the game with 4:28 to go before fouling out. With three minutes to go, Rydalch sealed the win with her fourth trey of the game to give BYU the 65-43 lead.

The Cougars return home Thursday to take on the University of San Francisco. The game begins at 6 p.m. MST, and can be seen on BYUtv and listened to on BYU Radio – Sirius XM 143. Links to live streaming, stats and audio can be found on the BYU women’s basketball schedule page.