(Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU Photo)
BYU vs. Gonzaga Box Score
LAS VEGAS— The BYU women’s basketball team dethroned reigning champion Gonzaga Monday to take the 2012 Zappos.com West Coast Conference Championship title at the Orleans Arena with the help of epic performances from Cougar post players.
The win propels BYU (26-6, 12-4) to its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2007 after taking second in regular season play. Monday's victory was also the Cougars' first conference tournament title since 2002.
View slideshow of WCC Championship game.
View video highlights and interviews.
“I can’t be more proud of my team," BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said. "We have gone through a lot this year. Things looked bad sometimes, but I thought tonight was one of our best performances as a team.”
Dani Peterson’s career-high 18 points on 8 of 10 shooting and 12 rebounds, her third double-double of the season, aided the Cougars on their path to victory. Haley Steed and Jennifer Hamson contributed 17 points apiece while Hamson had eight rebounds and Steed had eight assists.
“Defensive was our mind set, we didn’t want to give them anything easy," Peterson said. "They have good players all the way around. The last time we played them their bigs went off on us and so that was a focus and to make their guards beat us from the outside."
Kim Parker dished out with a career-high 10 assists and Kristen Riley added 10 rebounds.
Gonzaga (26-5) had three players in double figures with Haiden Palmer scoring a game-high 28.
"Gonzaga came out on fire. I thought they shot the ball really well the first bit of the game, but fortunately for us we shot the ball well too. It’s a team effort and that’s what this team has been about from day one," Judkins added.
Peterson came out on fire with four of the team’s first six points as the Cougars exchanged buckets with the Bulldogs. Gonzaga launched a 6-0 run with the help of Kayla Standish to put BYU behind 18-12.
Down 21-14, Steed connected with Stephanie Vermunt and Parker for back-to-back treys to steal back the lead. Gonzaga responded to the 8-0 BYU run with nine-straight points of its own to lead 32-24.
Eaton ended the run with a contested layup and a Riley three pulled BYU within five at 34-29. Steed drove to the hoop for a layup and added a three to cut the deficit to one. Eaton's jumper with 1:23 to go sent the Cougars into the locker room with a 36-35 lead.
The Cougars also dominated from the field, hitting 71.4 percent of their shots and 66.7 percent from 3-point land. BYU turnovers kept the game close, giving Gonzaga 13 points.
BYU took control with a 7-2 run to start the second half before the Bulldogs got back into rhythm and tied the game at 45-45 with 16:25 left in the game. The tie was short lived as Steed hit all three free throws after being fouled on a three to give BYU a lead it would not relinquish. The foul shots started an 8-2 run that gave the Cougars a 55-47 lead.
At 14:08, Lexi Eaton stole the ball off a bad pass by Bulldog Palmer and took it down the court for a layup despite heavy pursuit of two Bulldogs. Steed drained a deep 3-pointer to give the Cougars a double-figure lead at 62-51 and Peterson increased that lead to 13 on a layup.
BYU held on for the ride, preventing Gonzaga comeback attempts to finish the game at 78-66.
“Our team played together today, I’m so proud of them," Haley Steed commented. "Every single person that played today played big. Dani (Peterson) played the best I have ever seen her play. Jen (Hamson) gave us a huge inside presence."
Hamson and Peterson were named to the all-tournament team and Steed was selected tournament MVP.
BYUtv will rebroadcast the game Monday at 9:30 p.m. MT and Thursday at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. MT
The Cougars shot a season-best 60.4 percent (29 of 48) from the field, including 71.4 percent in the second half. BYU also shot 50.0 percent from three (7 of 14) — its second-best percentage of the season — and 86.7 percent from the free throw line (13 of 15).
BYU outrebounded Gonzaga 14 to seven in the first half. For the game the Cougars outrebounded the Zags 36 to 21. Dani Peterson and Kristen Riley contributed 12 and 10 boards, respectively, to lead BYU.
BYU went into the locker room at halftime with a one-point 36-35 advantage, improving its record to 22-0 when leading at the half.
By winning the 2012 Zappos.com WCC Championships, the Cougars advance to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007. It is BYU’s first conference tournament championship since 2002.
Haley Steed dished out eights assists. She has posted eight-plus assists 16 times this season.
Steed scored 17 points while hitting 3 of 4 from three, her 13th double figure game this season and 41st of her career.
For the second-straight game Jennifer Hamson came off the bench to put up double digits in points with 17 on 7 of 11 shooting. It marks the 13th double figure game this year and the 23rd of her career.
Dani Peterson scored a career-high 18 points on 8 of 10 shooting, her eighth double-digit outing of the year and 12th of her career. She also had 12 rebounds for her third career double-double, all of which have come this season.
Kim Parker dished out a career-high 10 assists in the game.