LAS VEGAS – With three players in double figures, BYU women’s basketball upset No. 1 seed Gonzaga 61-55 in the semifinals of the West Coast Conference tournament Monday afternoon.
“It was a great effort by both teams,” BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said. “We’ve gone through a lot to be able to play defense like that in the second half. It’s a coach’s dream to come out and execute like that. To have your best player on the bench in foul trouble was tough, but (Micaelee) Orton came in strong. I’m really proud of this team. We have one more and we want the (WCC) Championship.”
With this win, BYU (22-9, 12-6 WCC) advances to the championship game Tuesday against No. 6 seed San Francisco, who upset No. 2 seed San Diego. Regular-season champions Gonzaga (24-7, 16-2 WCC) will not win the WCC tournament for the first time since BYU beat them in the final in the 2011-12 season.
"I want to congratulate Gonzaga; they are a great team that is well-coached," Judkins said. "I'm not going to miss some of their players who are graduating."
BYU slowly closed the gap with a barrage of threes until a bucket from Xojian Harry with 9:21 left made it a one-point game, 43-42. Free throws from Morgan Bailey tied the game at 48-48. With 4:52 remaining, Makenzi Morrison nailed a 3-pointer to give the Cougars the 51-50 advantage, their first lead since early in the game. Free throws from Lexi Eaton pushed BYU’s lead to 55-50, capping off a 7-0 run. With 1:15 left, Eaton found Micaelee Orton down low for the quick two points to make it 57-52. Despite a late Gonzaga-three, late free throws from Eaton and Cassie Broadhead sealed the 61-55 win.
"I am so excited because our team played big today," Eaton said. "We came out tough and stepped up where we needed to. We made it a point to fix things in the second half and make it tough for them every possession. We knew we could control the things going wrong. We have good momentum going into the next game."
Morrison led all scorers with 18 points, going 4 of 6 from beyond the arc. Eaton scored 16 points, including 10 free throws. She also grabbed four rebounds and dished out four assists. Harry had 13 points and three rebounds, and Bailey had eight points, nine rebounds, two blocks and three steals before she fouled out late in the game.
“I think that it was key for our team to stick to our defensive principles that our coaches set for us because that’s where Gonzaga beat us every time,” Morrison said. “For us to be as sharp as they were and to make it over the hump was big for us to move forward. We regrouped at halftime and stayed focused on what we were going to do.”
BYU got the game started with two 3-pointers in a row from Morrison and Harry to take the quick lead. Gonzaga answered back with a 10-0 run to go up 16-8. Another trey from Morrison ended the run with 9:47 left, making it 16-11.
Bailey sat out for part of the first half due to foul trouble but not before grabbing an offensive board and getting her only field goal of the first half. Her bucket sparked a 6-0 run for the Cougars to get within one of the Bulldogs, 21-20, capped off by a three from Eaton with 4:43 remaining in the half.
After Morrison made a pair of free throws, shooting for BYU went cold in the last three minutes, allowing Gonzaga to close out the first half with a 6-0 run to go up 32-22.
The second half was a battle from the very beginning. Neither team was able to go on a big run like they did in the first half. The first two buckets for the Cougars were two 3-pointers again, this time from Harry and Eaton. A bucket in the paint by Bailey made it 38-31 with 16:32 in the game. BYU went on a run at the end of the game to complete the 61-55 upset.
BYU will play in the championship game against San Francisco on Tuesday at 1 p.m. PDT. The game will be broadcast live on ESPNU. Live stats will also be available on the BYU women’s basketball schedule page.
See a complete PHOTO GALLERY from the game at the BYU Women's Basketball Facebook page.
The Cougars finished the game with three players scoring in double figures, led by a game-high 18 points from Morrison. Eaton finished with 16 while Harry contributed 13 points to the winning effort. For the 12th time this year, BYU finished a game with three players scoring in double figures.
BYU ended the game shooting 37.0 percent from the field, 78 percent from the free throw line and 40.9 from 3-point range.
Both teams finished with 16 points coming from each other’s turnovers.
Gonzaga had the advantage in points in the paint with 14, compared with 12 for BYU.
Morrison led the Cougars in the first half of action with 10 points, two rebounds and one assist. She finished the game with a game-high 18 points, making it the 15th time this season that she’s had at least 10-plus points in a game.
She also went 4 for 6 from 3-point range, marking the fifth time on the year that she has made at least three treys in a contest.
Eaton picked up her 28th game with double digits in points with 16 to go along with four assists, four rebounds and a game-high four steals.
Bailey had the most rebounds on the team after the first 20 minutes of action with six. She also had two points, one assist and one steal. Before fouling out of the game, she nearly had a double-double with eight points and a team-best nine rebounds.
Harry recorded her fourth game with double figures in points with 13. From behind the arc, she went 3 for 9. The four made treys is a career high.
Maeda led the way in assists for BYU with six, which also tied for a game-high in that category. The assists make it the 21st time this year that she has dished out at least three assists in a game and the 14th leading the team in that category.
With the 65-64 upset win over Saint Mary’s in the quarterfinals of the 2015 West Coast Conference women’s basketball tournament, the BYU women’s basketball team (21-9) advanced to the semifinals. They will play No. 1 seed Gonzaga (24-6) on Mon. Mar. 8 at noon PST. The game will be carried live on BYUtv.
This will be the second time that the Zags and Cougars have met in the semifinals of the league tournament. During the 2012-13 season, BYU was the No. 4 seed and Gonzaga was the No. 1 seed. In that semifinal matchup, the Bulldogs recorded the 62-43 win. On a neutral court, Gonzaga has a 1-2 edge over BYU.
Lexi Eaton, a 5-foot-10 junior guard/forward combo, leads the Cougars in scoring, averaging 20.8 points per game. She ranks third in rebounds, pulling down 6.5 boards. Morgan Bailey, a 6-foot-2 senior forward, the 2015 WCC Player of the Year, is in second place in scoring, tallying 17.5 points, while leading the way in rebounding, averaging 10.6 boards per game. Bailey became BYU’s 26th player to eclipse 1,000 points in the USF game in San Francisco. The team’s assist leader is Kylie Maeda, who averages 4.2 assists a game.
BYU is averaging 68.6 points per game, while shooting 43.4 percent from the field, 71.4 percent at the free-throw line and 35.0 percent from 3-point land. In 23 games (most recent vs. SMC in the WCC tourney) the Cougars have dished out more assists than their opponents and have pulled down more rebounds in 14 contests to date. When leading at the break, they are 16-2 and have scored at least 80 points in six games (most recent, 82 at Pacific). The team has had four players score in double figures in four contests, (most recent at Pacific) and has had three players finish with double-digit points in 11 games (most recent vs. Gonzaga). BYU head coach Jeff Judkins recorded his 300th win with the 77-58 home victory over Pepperdine on Feb. 5, 2015. With the home win vs. Portland, the program picked up the sixth straight 20-win season, the eighth under Judkins.
• Head coach: Jeff Judkins (Utah, ‘78) 14th season
• Team’s leading scorer: #21 L. Eaton, 20.8 ppg
• Team’s leading rebounder: #41 M. Bailey, 10.6 rpg
• Team’s assists leader: #15 K. Maeda, 4.2 apg
• Team’s steals leader: #23 M. Morrison, 1.6 spg
• Team’s blocks leader: #41, M. Bailey, .63 bpg
Gonzaga is 24-6 on the year and advanced to the semifinals with a 70-50 win over LMU.
Three players are scoring in double digits for Gonzaga, led by 13.7 points from Sunny Greinacher, while teammate Keani Albanez contributes 12.8 points. Elle Tinkle rounds out the double-figure scoring with 12.2 points. Shelby Cheslek tops the leaderboard in the rebound category, averaging 8.7 boards per contest.
The Zags score 71.9 points and grab 40.1 rebounds, while shooting 43.5 percent from the field and 76.9 percent at the free-throw line. From 3-point range, Gonzaga is shooting 35.4 percent.
• Head coach: Lisa Fortier (Cal State Monterey Bay, 2004) First Season
• Team’s leading scorer: #14 S. Greinacher, 13.7 ppg
• Team’s leading rebounder: #44 S. Cheslek, 8.7 rpg
• Team’s assists leader: #5 G. Stirton, 3.1 apg
• Team’s steals leader: #24 K. Albanez, 2.4 spg
• Team’s blocks leader: #44 S. Cheslek, 1.6 bpg
The Bulldogs lead the overall series 11-6 and swept BYU this year. Head coach Jeff Judkins is 3-10 against the Zags. This will be the fourth time the two league foes have played on a neutral court.
The first meeting was played in Spokane on Dec. 27, with Gonzaga getting the, 78-62 win. Morgan Bailey and Lexi Eaton led the Cougars with 13 points apiece. Ashley Garfield and Xojian Harry led the rebounding effort with seven each. BYU tried to hold Gonzaga to a single-digit lead before the half after Eaton made a jump shot with 38 seconds left, but Georgia Stirton made a layup to take the 45-34 lead going into halftime. Gonzaga made 12 of 13 free throws while BYU only shot two of four. Two free throws from Makenzi Morrison gave BYU a chance, cutting the lead to 48-42 with 16:50 remaining. Gonzaga answered with a 10-0 run to push the lead back to double-digits, 58-42 with 14:15 left. Bailey’s layup with 10:42 remaining cut the Bulldogs’ lead to 10, 63-53. With 3:40 left, Garfield made a bucket to make it 58-74, but the Cougars were not able to score again until Kristine Fuller made a jumper with 50 seconds left. Alohi Robins-Hardy made two free throws to make the final score 62-78.
In the second matchup, the Zags got the seven-point, 73-66 victory in Provo on Feb. 28. Makenzi Morrison led BYU with 20 points and made a career-high and team season-high 16 of her 18 free throw attempts. Bailey scored 17 points with Kylie Maeda adding 12 points for the Cougars. The Bulldogs took a 34-28 advantage at halftime. Both teams started the second half trading baskets and shooting over 50 percent and with 15:11 remaining, BYU trailed 46-39. The Bulldogs used an 8-2 run capped by a Tinkle three and hit 7 of 9 shots from the field to push their lead to 58-45 with 9:20 left in the game. BYU cut the lead to four, 62-58 and to two, 64-62 with 3:28 left, but that was as close as it would get.
A win over Gonzaga would send BYU into the finals of the 2015 WCC championships to be played on Tuesday, Mar. 10 at noon.