LAS VEGAS – No. 15 BYU was unable to beat Gonzaga for a third time this year, falling 71-59 in the finals of the West Coast Conference Tournament on Tuesday at the Orleans Arena.
BYU (26-3) cut a 12-point lead down to three in the fourth quarter but couldn’t get things any closer, trailing the Bulldogs (26-6) for most of the game.
"Tonight just wasn't our night," BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said. "We missed a lot of shots and give credit to Gonzaga for making us do that. We are still going to be in the NCAA Tournament and we won the league during the regular season. This doesn't change that. I am very proud of my team and we aren't done yet."
The Cougars had a hard time getting shots to fall for most of the game, shooting just 32.3 percent for the game while the Zags shot 49.0 percent, including 41.7 percent from behind the arc.
Despite coming short of a tournament championship, BYU is expected to make the NCAA Tournament with an at-large bid after winning the regular-season WCC title.
Shaylee Gonzales had a double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds while Paisley Harding added 14 points. Lauren Gustin scored 10 and had eight rebounds.
Gonzales and Harding were named to the WCC All-Tournament Team.
Maria Albiero tied the game up at 8-8 with a three from the corner with 5:23 to go in the first. Gonzaga went on an 8-0 run after but the Cougars answered with four straight to make it 16-12 at the end of the first quarter.
The Zags kept the pressure on through the second, knocking down a three and another midrange jumper, pushing their edge to 27-19 with 2:57 to go until halftime.
The Cougars trailed 29-21 at the break after both teams added a bucket.
Down 12, Harding hit a three for the Cougars to cut the lead back to single digits with four minutes left in the third. Sara Hamson added a short jumper and it was 41-34 with 2:57 left in the third.
Gonzales spun her way through contact and got another layup to go before the end of the third quarter, sending BYU into the fourth quarter down 43-38.
Hamson got an and-one to trim the lead to 46-43 with 8:23 to go. Gonzaga answered back over the next two minutes with a 7-0 run to push its lead back to 10 at 53-43.
That run put the Bulldogs in control for the rest of the fourth quarter. BYU was able to hang around but the clock eventually ran out for the Cougars, falling 71-59 to the Zags.
BYU will now await its selection to the NCAA Tournament on Sunday, March 13.