(Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
LAS VEGAS — Despite double figures from Makenzi Pulsipher and Kalani Purcell, BYU women’s basketball fell to Saint Mary’s 59-49 in the second semifinal game of the West Coast Conference tournament on Monday at the Orleans Arena.
“I thought Saint Mary’s played really well today,” BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said. “They played their physical style of basketball and that was probably the biggest factor of this game. We forced it too much today, and against Saint Mary’s you can’t do that. I’m grateful for the seniors and all they have done for this team, program and university.”
Pulsipher led all scorers with a game-high 16 points, while Purcell recorded 15 points and nine rebounds.
BYU tallied 12 steals to Saint Mary’s five, while the Gaels outrebounded the Cougars 50 to 25.
Saint Mary’s jumped out to a 6-0 lead as the Cougars gave up five early offensive rebounds and struggled to find their rhythm offensively.
A Pulsipher trey with 6:49 on the first quarter clock put BYU on the board, cutting the Gaels’ lead to three, 6-3. After a Saint Mary’s four-point swing, three-straight baskets from Pulsipher, Amanda Wayment and Purcell brought BYU within one, 10-9.
Saint Mary’s responded with four unanswered points, and the Cougars trailed the Gaels 14-9 going into the second quarter.
BYU started the second quarter on a 5-0 run to tie the game at 14-all. Pulsipher fueled the Cougar streak as she converted her second 3-pointer of the game and then found Cassie Broadhead for a layup.
Purcell gave BYU its first lead of the game, 18-16, at the 4:49 mark of the second as the WCC Defensive Player of the Year finished a tough layup on the block.
Four quick points by Wayment forced a Saint Mary’s timeout as BYU took the 22-18 lead with 2:02 left in the half. Purcell hit a deep 3 as the halftime buzzer sounded to give the Cougars the seven-point 27-20 advantage at the break.
Pulsipher led BYU with a first half-high 10 points in 20 minutes of action.
The teams traded baskets through the first five minutes of second half play before Saint Mary’s closed the gap to one, 33-32. The Gaels took the 34-33 lead and then extended their advantage to six, 39-33, as BYU went scoreless for 3:46.
Purcell ended BYU’s scoring drought as the senior nailed an elbow jumper. Pulsipher then drained a long two with 57 seconds left in the third to bring BYU within two, 41-39.
Saint Mary’s opened the fourth quarter with back-to-back 3-point field goals to increase its lead to eight, 47-39. After each team went scoreless for 4:47, the Gaels scored in the paint to lead by 10.
After a 1 for 2 trip to the line by Brenna Chase, Saint Mary’s led 55-40 with 2:36 left in the game. Purcell made a pair of three throws with 1:15 on the clock to give the Cougars five points in the quarter to that point.
BYU closed the gap to eight, 57-49, as Liz Eaton knocked down a 3 from the corner with 17 seconds left.
The Gaels outscored the Cougars 39 to 22 in the second half.
BYU women’s basketball awaits a potential postseason bid that would be announced in the coming week.
With the loss against Saint Mary’s, BYU moves to 20–11 on the year and 7–8 all time against the Gaels.
For the third time this season, two Cougars scored in double figures.
BYU held Saint Mary’s to 17.9 (5 of 28) percent shooting in the first half.
The Cougars finished with 12 steals, the teams’ 18th game this season with 10-plus steals. BYU has posted 10-plus steals in seven-straight games.
Makenzi Pulsipher scored 10 first half points and finished with _16. She has now scored in double figures 23 times this season. Pulsipher also finished with three steals, her 17th game with 3-plus steals this season.
Pulsipher passed Haley Steed (76 in 2009-10) for seventh most steals in a single season with 77.
Kalani Purcell finished with 15 points and nine rebounds. It was her 22nd game this season with double figure points. Her nine rebounds give her 744 for her career, tying Kristin Riley for seventh all-time in career rebounds. Purcell also had three steals, her 14th game this season with 3-plus steals.
Sophomore Jasmine Moody posted a career high two steals.
Liz Eaton hit a 3-pointer late in the game. It was her first field goal since hitting a 3 against Pepperdine on Feb. 9.