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Las Vegas • It is easy to see why the BYU women's basketball team lost to Saint Mary's the last time the West Coast Conference rivals met.
Despite making six more field goals in the Feb. 18 matchup in Moraga, Calif., the Cougars couldn't keep Saint Mary's off the free-throw line and fell 64-58 to take a regular-season split with the Gaels, having won 70-65 in January in Provo.
BYU committed twice as many fouls (26-13) and the Gaels were 23 of 27 from the free-throw line, compared to BYU's 5-of-7 effort.
The rematch is at 3 p.m. MST Monday in a WCC tournament semifinal at Orleans Arena as the teams that tied for second with 13-5 league marks battle for the right to play for the tournament title on Tuesday.
"It will be a dogfight," BYU coach Jeff Judkins said.
The Cougars (20-10) are the No. 2 seed by virtue of their 73-71 win over No. 1 seed Gonzaga the last day of the regular season and advanced with a 75-66 overtime win over San Diego on Friday. Saint Mary's (19-11) edged Santa Clara 60-57 to get to the semifinals.
"Saint Mary's is really physical, and we have to do a really good job of not fouling," Judkins said. "We lost at Saint Mary's because of that. They play smash-mouth basketball."
The Cougars spent Saturday and Sunday recovering not practicing Sunday, per school rules because their stars were pushed to the limit Friday afternoon.
Kalani Purcell and Cassie Broadhead both played the maximum 45 minutes, and Makenzi Pulsipher logged 37. Purcell and Broadhead both fouled out in the game at McKeon Pavilion.
Saint Mary's has "five kids who can shoot it, and so you can't help off them," Judkins said. "Then they do a really good job at getting fouled. I don't know what it is. They just know how to get fouled. If we can keep them off the line, we will be OK. … If we can keep [their free throws] in the teens, then we have a good shot."
Broadhead, the WCC's Player of the Year, is playing with considerable mouth pain after suffering a dislodged tooth in the season-finale against Gonzaga. That didn't slow her down much Thursday, as she scored 22 points against the Toreros. Purcell added 20 and 16 rebounds and Pulsipher had 16.
Judkins said Purcell can handle the minutes because she's strong and has a sturdier frame than Broadhead or Pulsipher.
"Kalani, that kid's a horse. That kid is Karl Malone. I'm serious," Judkins said of the WCC's Defensive Player of the Year. "People say, 'what is strength?' That's what it is, right there. When you are strong like that, your body can take punishment. … Cassie gets more worn down because her body is not as strong. Makenzi is kind of a miracle kid. She doesn't get tired. Strength-wise, she gets beat up. Wind-wise, she never does it."
Both teams know they have to win the conference tournament to make it to the NCAA Tournament. The Cougars are trying to get back to the Big Dance for the fourth-straight year.
"Last year, we knew if we got to the semis we would probably go," Judkins said. "But that's all right. These girls have done it before and they want to win the tournament. But we have to come out ready to play. We will have to win some tough matchups."
No. 2 BYU vs. No. 3 Saint Mary's
P WCC women's semifinal, Orleans Arena, Las Vegas Tipoff • Monday, 3 p.m. MST
TV • BYUtv