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Cougars fall 43-42 to Gonzaga in WCC championship game
LAS VEGAS — BYU women’s basketball fell to Gonzaga 43-42 on a last-second shot Tuesday in the West Coast Conference Tournament championship game.
“It was a tough loss,” said BYU head coach Jeff Judkins. “You’ve got to give Gonzaga a lot of credit. I’m proud of my girls. I thought they played their hearts out. It was a very defensive, physical game. We’re going to learn from it and get better and understand what we need to do when it comes down this.”
BYU vs. Gonzaga Final Box Score
Shaylee Gonzales led the Cougars (18-5, 14-4) with 13 points, four steals and three rebounds, while Paisley Johnson Harding added 12 points, five rebounds, three steals and three assists. Lauren Gustin contributed eight points and a game-high 13 rebounds and Tegan Graham tallied seven points and three rebounds.
Gonzales was named to the 2021 WCC All-Tournament team.
BYU held Gonzaga (23-3, 18-1) to just 29 percent shooting in the game while recording a 35 percent shooting clip of its own. The Cougars led 36-27 heading into the final quarter but couldn’t quite hold on, as the Bulldogs' Jill Townsend caught an inbounds pass with 0.6 seconds left and hit the game-winning jumper.
With BYU up nine at the start of the fourth, six straight points from the Bulldogs’ Yvonne Ejim brought Gonzaga within three, 36-33, three minutes into the quarter. Gustin ended a five-minute BYU scoring drought with a basket down low to put the Cougars back up five, 38-33, midway through the period. A Gonzales layup at the shot-clock buzzer gave BYU a seven-point lead, 40-33 with 3:35 left.
The Bulldogs used a 6-0 run to cut their deficit to one, 40-39, with 1:34 remaining. On the ensuing BYU possession, Gonzales passed the ball to Harding on an inbounds play and Harding passed it right back for a Gonzales layup, putting the Cougars up 42-39 with 44 seconds left. A Maria Albiero foul then sent Gonzaga’s Jenn Wirth to the free throw line, and Wirth knocked down both attempts to bring the Bulldogs back within one, 42-41.
With 10 seconds separating the shot and game clocks, Harding just missed a driving layup near the shot-clock buzzer and Wirth grabbed the rebound with eight seconds left. On the ensuing possession, BYU forced a missed layup but Sara Hamson and Ejim fought for the rebound, resulting in a jump ball with 0.6 seconds left. With the possession arrow favoring the Bulldogs, Townsend caught the following inbounds pass, turned, and hit the game-winner over Hamson to take the 43-42 win and the WCC Tournament championship.
Both teams struggled to score early on in the contest, as a driving layup by Gonzales tied the game at four mid-way through the opening quarter. Graham and Hamson scored in the paint on consecutive possessions, and Gustin found Gonzales for a layup to put BYU up 10-8 through the first 10 minutes.
Harding and Gustin both hit midrange jumpers to open the second quarter and give the Cougars a 14-8 lead. A smothering defensive effort aided a 13-0 BYU run, with a corner triple by Graham, putting the Cougars up 19-8. The Bulldogs scored five consecutive points to end an 11-minute Gonzaga scoring drought, but Gonzales hit a corner 3 at the first half buzzer to give BYU a 22-13 lead at the break.
Gustin hit a pull-up jumper and Gonzales scored a fast-break layup off a steal to put the Cougars up 13, 26-13, early in the second half. Teams then traded baskets, as Harding hit a step-back jumper and Graham scored off an inbounds pass from Gonzales. Harding then hit a long two at the shot-clock buzzer as BYU took a 36-27 lead into the fourth.
Despite the Cougars’ nine-point advantage to start the final quarter, Gonzaga outscored BYU 16-6 in the period to seal the win.
The Cougars now await their postseason fate, with the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Selection Show taking place on Monday, March 15.
- Gonzales, who was named to the 2021 WCC All-Tournament Team, scored a team-high 13 points to go along with four steals, three rebounds and one assist. Gonzales was also named to the 2019 WCC All-Tournament Team as a freshman
- Harding tallied 12 points on the afternoon, shooting 4 of 8 from the field, while adding five rebounds, three assists and three steals
- Gustin pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds and added eight points and one assist
- Graham scored seven points on 3 of 5 shooting and had three rebounds and one steal in 27 minutes of action off the bench
- Hamson tallied three blocks, all in the first quarter, to go along with two points, one rebound, one assist and one steal
- BYU shot 35% from the floor, 13% from three and 100% from the free-throw line. The Bulldogs shot 29% from the floor and 33% from three
- The Cougars scored 22 points in the paint to Gonzaga’s 18
- BYU tallied more steals (10-7), blocks (3-1) and assists (9-8) than the Bulldogs
- Gonzaga out-rebounded the Cougars (41-34) and had 18 bench points to BYU’s seven
- Over the last eight quarters of action, the Cougars have held their opponents to 10 or less points in a single quarter four times. BYU held Gonzaga to eight first-quarter points and five in the second quarter
- The Cougars are now 3-3 in WCC Tournament championship games
BYU to face Gonzaga in WCC Tournament championship game
LAS VEGAS — No. 2 seed BYU women’s basketball will take on No. 1 seed and No. 16-ranked Gonzaga on Tuesday, March 9, at 1 p.m. PST in the 2021 West Coast Conference Women’s Basketball Tournament championship game. The Cougars and Bulldogs split the regular season series, with Gonzaga winning 63-56 in Spokane and BYU winning 61-56 in Provo.
The matchup will be broadcast live on ESPNU and audio broadcasts will be available on BYU Radio 107.9 FM, the BYU Cougars App and on BYUCougars.com/LiveRadio.
No. 2 BYU vs. No. 1 Gonzaga Game Notes
2021 UCU WCC Women’s Basketball Tournament Bracket
ABOUT NO. 2 BYU (18-4, 14-3)
- The Cougars dominated No. 3 seed San Francisco 85-55 in the WCC semifinals Monday to advance to the WCC Tournament title game for the second time in three years
- The last time BYU reached the WCC Tournament championship game was in 2019, when the Cougars defeated Gonzaga 82-68
- BYU is making its sixth WCC Tournament title game appearance since joining the conference in 2011. The Cougars are 3-2 in the WCC Tournament championship game
- 2020-21 WCC Co-Player of the Year Shaylee Gonzales is the WCC’s second-leading scorer and is averaging team bests in points (18.1 ppg), assists (3.9 apg) and steals (2.4 spg)
- Following Gonzales, fellow 2020-21 All-WCC First Team members Paisley Johnson Harding (14.1 ppg) and Lauren Gustin (11.7 ppg) are also averaging double figures in scoring
- Gustin ranks second in the nation in rebounds per game (12.8 rpg) and has tallied 14 double-doubles on the season, good for 11th in the country
- Sara Hamson, a 2020-21 All-WCC Honorable Mention, is averaging a league-best 2.5 blocks per game
- Fellow 2020-21 All-WCC Honorable Mention Tegan Graham is averaging 8.1 points per game off the bench
- Head coach Jeff Judkins is the 2020-21 WCC Coach of the Year
- As a team, BYU entered the 2021 WCC Tournament ranked 16th in the nation in assists per game (16.9 apg) and 26th in field-goal percentage defense (.362)
ABOUT NO. 1 GONZAGA (22-3, 16-1)
- The Bulldogs defeated Santa Clara 72-62 in the WCC semifinals to advance to their 15th WCC Tournament championship game and their fourth in the last five seasons
- Gonzaga collected five All-WCC honors this season, tying BYU for the most in the league. Senior forward Jenn Wirth was named Co-Player of the Year along with Gonzales, while Wirth and senior guard Jill Townsend were named to the All-WCC First Team
- Junior forward Melody Kempton was named WCC Sixth Woman of the Year, while Kempton, sophomore guard Kayleigh Truong and senior forward LeeAnne Wirth were named All-WCC Honorable Mentions
- Townsend and Wirth pace Gonzaga with 13.8 and 13.1 point-per-game averages, respectively
- Wirth leads the Bulldogs in rebounds (5.4 rpg), Townsend leads the team in steals (1.2 spg) while Truong is Gonzaga’s assist leader (4.2 apg)
- As a team, the Bulldogs are averaging 72.6 points per contest while allowing just 55.4
- Gonzaga finished the regular season leading the league in assists (17.8 apg), rebounds (39.9 rpg), field-goal percentage (.474), three-point field-goal percentage (.367) and scoring margin (17.5)
- Gonzaga leads the all-time series over BYU, 18-13
- The Cougars are 3-2 against the Bulldogs in the WCC Tournament, including 2-1 in the title game
- The two teams split the regular season series, with BYU most recently defeating Gonzaga 61-56 in Provo on Feb. 18
- TV: ESPNU
- TV Talent: Paul Sunderland (play-by-play), Andraya Carter (analyst)
- Radio: BYU Radio 107.9 FM
- Streamed Audio: BYU Cougars App, BYUCougars.com/LiveRadio
- Radio Talent: Greg Wrubell (play-by-play), Kristen Kozlowski (analyst)
- Live Stats: BYUCougars.com