(Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
PROVO, Utah – Jennifer Hamson’s 20 points and a late second-half BYU surge proved not to be enough for the women's basketball team, which fell to Gonzaga 66-55 on Saturday.
Senior Haley Steed added 14 points and nine assists, while senior Keilani Unga added seven points and three offensive rebounds during their final game at the Marriott Center.
"We had our chances tonight, but Gonzaga's a very good and very balanced team, so you have to give them credit," BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said. "I thought Jen and Haley had outstanding games for us and came out ready to go. We'll be working hard this week and we hope we'll get another shot at Gonzaga in the tournament."
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In the first half, Jennifer Hamson was a presence in the paint early, scoring five points in the first four minutes. Fueled by a strong defensive effort, the Cougars (19-8, 10-4 West Coast Conference) went on an 8-2 run capped by a Kim Parker Beeston jumper to extend their lead to 10-4 with 15:55 remaining in the first half.
Gonzaga (24-5, 14-1 WCC) answered back with a 12-0 run of its own. Stephanie Golden’s jumper with 12:03 remaining in the first half extended the Bulldogs' lead to 16-10.
Steed scored her first points of the game, hitting an off-balance jumper to bring the Cougars within four, down 18-14, at 8:15. Fighting off the Bulldogs' strong offense, Kylie Maeda converted a steal into a layup to cut the Bulldogs' lead to two with 7:05 left in the half.
On the Cougars' next possession, Steed fed Hamson down low for an easy layup to tie the game at 18 with 6:38 remaining in the first half. Golden fueled another run for the Bulldogs with two jumpers and a free throw to extend their lead to 29-20 with 2:45 remaining.
Steed brought the Cougars within striking distance before the end of the half, hitting a jumper inside the arc at 2:18 to bring BYU within seven. Just 30 seconds later, Steed hit a big trey to close the Bulldogs’ lead to four with just under two minutes remaining. The Cougars entered halftime down 30-25. Hamson lead the Cougars with nine points and Golden led the Bulldogs with 11 points at the half.
Both teams traded points back and forth early in the second half as Hamson went to work in the paint. Hamson converted an old-fashioned three-point play after a nice feed from Unga, hitting the layup and free throw with 18:10 remaining. On the Cougars' next possession, Hamson banked a jumper off the glass to narrow the Bulldogs' lead to two with 17:20 remaining.
BYU continued to keep it close as Hamson scored a quick eight points in the second half capped off by a free throw with 15:33 to bring the score to 39-37 Gonzaga. Gonzaga began to find its offensive rhythm, extending its lead to 47-38 with a Taelo Karr layup with 11:39 remaining.
Steed answered with a jumper with 8:59 remaining to bring the Cougars within seven, down 47-40. The Bulldogs’ offense continued to challenge the Cougar defenders as Jazmine Redmond capped off an 11-2 Bulldog run with a jumper and free throw to up Gonzaga’s lead to 58-42 with 6:08 remaining.
Down by 16, Steed sparked the BYU offense from behind the arc, hitting a 3-pointer to narrow Gonzaga’s lead to 58-45 with 5:52 remaining. Maeda added another three to bring the Cougars within 12 at the 4:45 mark.
On the Cougars' next offensive possession, Unga drew the foul and hit both free throws from the charity stripe to bring BYU within 10, down 60-50 with 4:27 remaining in regulation. Gonzaga’s Sunny Greinacher hit a jumper with 2:31 remaining to put the Bulldogs up 62-50 to put a late Cougar comeback out of reach. The Bulldogs extended their lead with late free throws to 66-55 to end regulation.
The Cougars open the final week of conference play on the road Thursday at Loyola Marymount. Tip off is slated for 7 p.m. PST from Gersten Pavilion.
A season-high 1,430 fans were at the Marriott Center for the game Saturday afternoon.
BYU shot 40.7 percent during the game , while Gonzaga shot 43.6 percent. The Bulldogs led in points off turnovers 25-12 while the Cougars outscored 30-22 in the paint.
The loss was BYU’s first at the Marriott Center this season. BYU is now 13-1 at home.
Jennifer Hamson recorded 20 points against the Bulldogs and led the team with eight rebounds. She made 80 percent of her shots on the day, a career high.
Haley Steed also scored in double figures with 14 points. She led the Cougars with nine assists. This was the second game in a row when both Hamson and Steed scored in double figures.