(Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
LAS VEGAS – The No. 1 seed Gonzaga Bulldogs proved too much for BYU as the Cougars fell 62-43 in the West Coast Conference Championships semifinal game Saturday.
"Gonzaga is a really good team, and they’ve now beat us this year three times," said BYU head coach Jeff Judkins. "I know it’s hard to do that, so that definitely says something. Give them a lot of credit. I was proud of my team today though – we played tough against a very good team. It was tough to come back after going down by so much heading into halftime. They made it difficult for us, but I’m proud of how we played. We look forward to playing in the postseason hopefully and giving these athletes more opportunities to grow
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Morgan Bailey led BYU with 12 points. Teammates Haley Steed and Keilani Unga contributed eight and seven points, respectively. Steed and Unga each also contributed a team-high seven rebounds.
Tough defense from both teams kept neither from finding an offensive groove in the opening minutes. After more than six minutes of play, Gonzaga (26-5) led just 6-5.
After a 3-point play by Keilani Unga tied the score at 8-8, Gonzaga went on a 6-0 run for a 14-8 lead while holding BYU scoreless for almost four minutes. A layup from Hamson ended the scoring drought and brought BYU (21-10) back within four with 8:04 until the break.
After BYU cut the deficit to one point, Gonzaga responded with a 10-0 run to put the Bulldogs up 28-17 with one minute left until halftime.
Steed ended the run with a pair of free throws, but another Gonzaga layup put the Bulldog lead back at double digits at 30-19 heading into the locker room.
The Bulldogs continued to control the game in the second half, putting together two 5-0 runs in the first five minutes of action. Gonzaga held a 42-24 lead with 14:48 to play.
"I just don’t think we were able to execute our offense as well as we would have liked – they played really tough defense today," said BYU guard Ashley Garfield. "That’ll be something we work on in the offseason. The biggest thing I think is that they were able to capitalize on our turnovers – they made the most of them."
BYU finished the game outscoring the Bulldogs 7-3, with all seven points coming from Morgan Bailey, for a final score of 62-43 in Gonzaga’s favor.
BYU will find out if it made the WNIT March 18.
A 23.1 shooting percentage in the first half hurt the Cougars, who ended the game shooting 33.3 percent. BYU shot 12.5 percent from 3-point range, down from a 35.5 percent 3-point shooting average for the year. BYU held Gonzaga to 14.3 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
Gonzaga also won the battle of the boards, 41-36.
Turnovers plagued BYU, which totaled 22 while the Bulldogs collected 13. BYU scored 14 points off Gonzaga turnovers, while the Bulldogs scored 12 points off turnovers.
Morgan Bailey led the Cougars with 12 points, her 13th double-digit game this season.
Haley Steed ended with eight points, three assists and seven rebounds.
Keilani Unga also had seven boards, accompanied by seven points.