BYU upsets Gonzaga to advance to the WCC Championship
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.
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