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Cougar cruise: Big jump out of the gate lifts BYU to a 60-39 win over Saint Mary’s

Led by Brenna Drollinger, the Cougars made certain to put their mark on the game early and often against the Gaels on Thursday.

BYU Cougars forward Shalae Salmon (3) attempts to score against the Saint Mary’s Gaels at the Marriott Center in Provo on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020.
BYU Cougars forward Shalae Salmon (3) attempts to score against the Saint Mary’s Gaels at the Marriott Center in Provo on Thursday, Feb. 13, 2020.
Ivy Ceballo, Deseret News

PROVO — Doing the little things yielded big results for BYU in its 60-39 win over Saint Mary’s on Thursday.

From the start, the Cougars dictated the flow of the game, built a big lead and maintained it until the final buzzer sounded.

BYU’s dominance was made abundantly apparent on the scoreboard, too, with a 17-0 lead built out of the gate within the game’s first six minutes, largely indicating how Thursday’s game would ultimately go.

“Our energy has been low, so we decided our focus was going to be on the little things, and when you do all the little things, you can play nearly perfect,” said BYU guard Brenna Drollinger.

The word “perfect” is typically used with a lot of hyperbole attached, but considering what the Cougars showed for the game’s first six minutes, just about perfect pretty much describes the play.

The Cougars shut things down on defense and worked effectively for good shots on offense with Drollinger, and her game-high 18 points, leading the way.

Saint Mary’s eventually did get on the board, but BYU kept responding and ended the first quarter with a commanding 25-7 lead.

“I thought we played one of our best quarters of the year tonight,” said BYU coach Jeff Judkins. “We executed really well, offensively and defensively. ... It was a great team effort tonight.”

While Drollinger was the leader on offense, several stepped up on defense, led by the efforts of Sara Hamson and her five blocked shots and guard Maria Albiero, whose perimeter defense was praised by Judkins.

“Maria did an outstanding job,” Judkins said. “... Maria had to fight through a lot of picks and flares, and I thought she made them have to put the ball on the ground.”

Albiero’s efforts helped spearhead holding the Gaels to just 4 for 26 shooting from 3-point range.

Of course having Hamson in the middle helps out the perimeter effort considerably.

“It makes it a thousand times easier,” Drollinger said of Hamson’s presence down low. “You don’t have to worry about getting back cut because I know Sara has my back.”

As for Hamson, her five blocks placed her as just the third player in BYU women’s basketball history to reach 300 blocked shots on their careers. The other two? Well, that would be Sara’s mother, Tresa Hamson, and older sister, Jennifer Hamson.

“It’s a cool experience to be up there with my sister and my mom — a nice little family thing,” Sara Hamson said.

BYU’s defensive pressure held throughout, with the Gaels unable to break double-digits in scoring in each of the first three quarters. On the offensive end, the Cougars tailed off a big, but with the big lead established, were never seriously threatened throughout.

“It’s hard to come back, and I’ve been on the other side of the coin,” Judkins said of coming back from such a big, early deficit. “I think we knew when we jumped them that we could score on them tonight.”

Other standouts for the Cougars included Jasmine Moody, who scored 10 points off the bench, and Paisley Johnson, who added eight. Drollinger added eight rebounds, five assists and two steals to go along with her 18 points.

With the win, BYU improves to 14-9 overall on the season and 9-4 in West Coast Conference play. Next up is another home game with Pacific visiting the Marriott Center on Saturday afternoon.