SPOKANE, Wash. – Despite being down by 15 at halftime, the No. 16 BYU women’s basketball team rallied on the road at beat Gonzaga 62-50 on Saturday at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
“It is tough to win here. Really tough to win,” BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said. I expected our team to compete and challenged them after the first half and I am so proud of how they responded.”
Senior guard Paisley Harding scored 10 points in the first half to keep BYU (19-2, 9-1) in the game but suffered a cut under the eye that kept her down on the floor for several minutes before being helped to the locker room.
Harding returned with stitches under the eye in the second half and sparked a 19-3 third quarter, including 12 more points to push the Cougars to a comeback victory. The win gave Gonzaga (17-5, 8-1) its first West Coast Conference loss of the year.
“Paisley is a big part of tonight’s win,” Judkins said. “Her toughness and coming back and playing is exactly what this team is. They were tough and when they play that way they are a very good team.”
BYU went into halftime trailing 35-20 but outscored the Zags 42-15 in the second half, including a school-record defensive effort allowing just three points in the third quarter.
Harding finished with 22 points on 8 of 12 shooting. Lauren Gustin recorded her 11th double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, with nine boards coming in the second half. Shaylee Gonzales finished with 11 points, all in the second half and Sara Hamson added six points, six rebounds and five blocks off the bench.
In a tale of two halves, BYU struggled on the glass in the first half losing the rebounding battle 25-14, including giving up 11 offensive boards. In the second half BYU held a 27-13 edge on the glass.
After making seven 3-pointers in the first half, Gonzaga went 0 for 8 in the second half and BYU’s defense held the Bulldogs to just 20.7 percent from the field for the second half.
Gonzaga was hot from three in the first quarter, knocking down another one on a the first-quarter buzzer to give them four and a 20-10 lead after one quarter.
The Zags continued to stay hot from deep, leading 35-20 at the break, thanks to a 7 of 11 mark from downtown. Harding led BYU with 10 points in the first half but went down late in the second quarter with a cut under the eye but came back in the second half.
Harding knocked down BYU’s first three of the game with 5:42 left in the third quarter to cut the lead down to single digits at 36-27.
BYU’s offensive woke up as a stitched up Harding went off for 12 points in the third quarter. The Cougar defense got stronger and stronger and BYU chipped away, going on a 17-2 run over seven minutes in the third quarter to take the lead 39-38 heading into the final frame. The Cougar defense held Gonzaga to just three points in the third quarter.
Gonzales got on the board for the first time in the fourth quarter with a midrange jumper to push BYU’s lead to 45-40 with seven minutes left. Gustin followed it up with another two for a 47-40 edge.
Gonzales and Gustin teamed up again for back-to-back buckets to extend BYU’s lead to 51-40 as part of another run.
With under two minutes to go, the Bulldogs cut the lead down to seven points but BYU wasn’t going to let them get any closer, sinking free throws and staying in control down the stretch.
The teams traded buckets and free throws but the Cougars won it 62-50 to complete the comeback.
BYU hosts Pepperdine on Thursday, Feb. 10 at 7 p.m. MST. The game will be televised on BYUtv.