PROVO, Utah — A solid fourth quarter sent the seniors of the BYU women’s basketball team out with a 71-63 victory over Gonzaga Saturday afternoon at the Marriott Center.
“This game was a great example of what kind of players and young women they are,” BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said. "We got down, didn't have our best game, but we didn't quit. We kept playing hard and we believed in each other. That's how the seniors have been their whole careers and tonight was a great example of that. We played some of the best defense I have seen in a long time from our team. I'm really happy for them and the way they played. "
In the season’s largest attendance against a conference opponent, senior Kalani Purcell recorded 21 points, nine rebounds and six assists. Junior Cassie Broadhead added 19 points and senior Makenzi Pulsipher scored 11.
BYU started the game on a 4-0 run before Gonzaga evened the score 4-4 and the teams traded baskets. Senior Micaelee Orton sunk a 3-pointer to tie it 7-7 with 6:24 left in the quarter. The Cougars then trailed by as many as seven points, 14-7, but fought back to take the lead 17-16 with 1:45 on the clock. The Bulldogs finished the quarter up by one, 18-17.
Brenna Chase opened the second quarter on a 3-pointer as BYU and Gonzaga battled in a one-possession game. Purcell scored 10 points in the period, including four layups and a perfect trip to the charity stripe. The Bulldogs maintained their lead, 39-36, heading into halftime.
The third quarter included a four-minute drought for both teams as Gonzaga extended its lead to six, 48-42.
Powered by an explosive offense and a steady defense, the Cougars responded to the Bulldogs' five-point 51-46 lead by scoring five of their own in nine seconds as part of a 13-0 run. Purcell dished the ball to Kristine Nielson, who added two points on a layup, 48-51, with 7:36 on the clock. Moments later, Pulsipher stole the ball connected on a jumper to bring BYU within one, 50-51, with 7:25 on the clock.
From there, the Cougars continued their run and built a 10-point 61-51 lead with 3:45 left. BYU held Gonzaga scoreless for almost eight minutes of the quarter and made 9 of 10 free throws in the final minute of play. The Cougars led by as many as 11 points and came away with a 71-63 win heading into the conference tournament.
For the second year in a row, BYU had a perfect 9-0 home record in WCC play.
BYU will now prepare to compete as the No. 2 seed in next week’s 2017 West Coast Conference Women’s Basketball Championships at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Mar. 2-7.
In its last game of the regular season, BYU recognized its four graduating seniors—Nielson, Orton, Pulsipher and Purcell.
BYU trailed Gonzaga 39-36 going into halftime. The Cougars pulled out the 71-63 win for their first win of the year against the Zags.
The Cougars finished the game with three players in double figures for the 10th time this year. Purcell (21), Broadhead (19) and Pulsipher (11).
As a team, BYU shot 91.7 from the free throw line to Gonzaga’s 85.7 percent.
BYU recorded 13 steals and Gonzaga had four. The Cougars gave the ball away only 10 times while the Zags had 18 turnovers.
The attendance turnout of 2,195 at the Marriot Center on Saturday was the largest crowd of conference play. For the second year in a row, BYU had a perfect 9-0 home record in WCC play.
Kalani Purcell led all scorers with 12 points going into the second half. The senior scored 10 points in the second quarter. Purcell finished the game with a game-high 21 points and nine rebounds. With her nine rebounds, Purcell is now eighth in all-time rebounds in BYU history. She now has 719 in her two-year BYU career.
Cassie Broadhead scored 11 first-half points. The junior guard finished the contest with 19 points, six rebounds and three assists. Broadhead shot 100.0 percent from the foul line (6 of 6).
Makenzi Pulsipher had 11 points, going 6 of 6 from the free throw line. Pulsipher also had a game-high five steals, four rebounds and one assist. Pulsipher ranks 21st in all-time scoring in BYU history with 1,185 points. The senior also passed Behka Stafford to become seventh in 3-pointers made with 181 in her career.
Micaelee Orton had seven points in her last game at the Marriot Center. Orton also had one rebound, one assist and one steal in the contest.
Kristine Nielson finished the game with six points, going 3 of 4 from the free throw line. Nielson also had four assists and two steals.