No. 18 BYU women's basketball flexes defensive muscles in win over Saint Mary's

BYU guard Tegan Graham celebrates a 3-pointer during the Cougars' women's basketball game against Saint Mary's, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022 in the Marriott Center in Provo. (Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo)

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PROVO — The BYU women's basketball team has put on some impressive defensive performances en route to the No. 18 ranking in this week's Associated Press top 25.

But 10 points allowed in the first half? That's a new one.

Paisley Harding poured in 18 points with five rebounds and three assists, and Lauren Gustin added 15 points and 12 rebounds as No. 18 BYU women's basketball routed Saint Mary's 78-36 Thursday night in the Marriott Center.

"I love playing defense, and when you see the whole team doing that, it just shows you what you can do to anybody," said Maria Albiero, who had five assists and six rebounds in improving to 8-0 at home. "It makes me really happy."

Albiero is "the start of the defense," head coach Jeff Judkins said, and the key to holding down a team like the Cougars did Thursday night with the Gaels (7-6, 1-1 WCC) in jumping out to a 41-10 halftime lead while holding the visitors to single-digit made field goals in all four quarters.

"How she guards the ball and what she does dictates so much," Judkins said. "This kid is a special, special player, and we wouldn't be where we are. She'd better be all-conference, because she deserves it."

Shaylee Gonzales had 13 points, eight rebounds and two assists for the Cougars (13-1, 3-0 WCC), and Tegan Graham added 11 points and seven assists.

The Gaels shot just 2-of-12 in the first quarter, and BYU ended the stanza on an 18-2 spurt to take a 22-5 advantage after the first quarter. That included 6 points apiece from Gonzales and Harding, and another 8 points and six rebounds from Gustin.

Saint Mary's was held scoreless for the final 6:34 of the first quarter, fueled by six turnovers that the Cougars turned into 12 points.

"This team, they just know how to win," Judkins said. "We didn't play as well as we could have offensively, but our defense is what did it for us tonight."

Alli Bamberger scored 15 points with four rebounds to lead Saint Mary's.

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