Josh Carter | Posted: 2 Feb 2021 | Updated: 16 Feb 2021

Cougars Come up Short at No. 19 Gonzaga, 63-56

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S. Gonzales Layup at Gonzaga 2020-21

SPOKANE, Wash. — BYU women’s basketball came up just short in the final minutes to No. 19 Gonzaga Tuesday night at the McCarthey Athletic Center, falling 63-56 to the Zags.

“I’m real proud of our team,” BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said. “We just had a few lapses; one was that we got into foul trouble in the first half. They hit some shots and we kind of scrambled. We fought back in the second half and I thought our girls showed a lot of character and a lot of heart.”

BYU at Gonzaga Final Box Score

The Cougars (9-3, 5-2) trailed by as many as 14 in the third quarter before tying things up at 54 with just under two minutes left in the contest. BYU’s comeback attempt came up short; however, as Gonzaga (16-2, 11-0) ended the game on a 9-2 run to seal the win.

Paisley Johnson Harding paced the Cougars with 17 points on 6 of 12 shooting, going 2 of 5 from distance and adding three assists and two rebounds. Shaylee Gonzales added 12 points, three rebounds, three assists and a pair of steals.

Tegan Graham chipped in nine points off three 3-pointers while Maria Albiero contributed seven points, four assists and two rebounds. Lauren Gustin pulled down a game-high 10 rebounds and added four points.

With the Cougars trailing 52-47 with 3:14 to go, a Gonzaga flagrant foul gave the Cougars two free throws and the ball. BYU capitalized, as Harding nailed both free throws and Gustin scored a layup to bring the Cougars within one, 52-51. Following a Jill Townsend jumper, Gonzales drilled a highly-contested 3-pointer to tie the game at 54 with 1:54 remaining.

Back-to-back treys by the Zags, however, then gave Gonzaga a 60-54 lead with 1:03 left. Three-point attempts by Gonzales and Graham came up short, and the Zags proceeded to ice the game with three consecutive free throws. Albiero knocked down a last-second jumper, but Gonzaga came away with the 63-56 win.

Teams traded baskets to start the contest, as a pair of Hamson layups and a Gonzales step-back jumper tied things up at six, just three minutes into the game. A 3-pointer from the left wing by Albiero and a baseline jumper by Harding brought the score to 14-13 for Gonzaga at the end of the first quarter.

BYU opened the second quarter with back-to-back triples from Graham and Smiler to take a 20-16 advantage. The Zags proceeded to go on a 13-0 run, fueled by a stifling full-court defense and a pair of Townsend triples. Harding knocked down a floater in the lane to end a five-minute Cougar scoring drought, but a Kayleigh Truong 3-pointer at the end of the half gave the Zags a 34-22 lead at the break.

A pair of driving layups by Harding and a jumper by Gonzales brought BYU within 10, 40-30, midway through the third quarter. Albiero then found Harding for an open triple in the corner, bringing the score to 44-34 for Gonzaga heading into the fourth.

Back-to-back 3-pointers from Graham and Harding cut the Cougars’ defecit to six, 46-40, three minutes into the final period. A reverse lay-in by Albiero followed by another Graham triple then brought BYU within five, 50-45. Gonzales got a tough driving layup to fall to bring the score to 52-47 for the Zags with 3:14 left.

After tying the game at 54, the Cougars’ comeback attempt came up just short, as Gonzaga ended the game on a 9-2 run to come out with the 63-56 win.

Player Notes

  • Harding led BYU with 17 points on 6 of 12 shooting while adding three assists and two rebounds in 38 minutes of action
  • Gonzales, who also played 38 minutes, scored 12 points on 5 of 15 shooting and added three assists, three rebounds and two steals
  • Graham chipped in nine points, going 3 of 7 from distance, and added four rebounds and a block
  • Albiero dished out a team-high four assists and added seven points
  • Gustin pulled down a team-high 10 rebounds to go along with four points and an assist

Team Notes

  • BYU shot 38.6% from the floor, 34.8% from three and 67% from three-point territory. Gonzaga recorded a 43.5% shooting clip from the floor and shot 54.5 from distance
  • The Zags shot 17 for 22 from the free-throw line on the night, while the Cougars went just 4 of 6 from the charity stripe
  • BYU scored 20 points in the paint to the Zags’ 18, and dished out 12 assists to Gonzaga’s nine
  • The Zags out-rebounded the Cougars 36-28 and scored 15 points off turnovers compared to BYU’s nine
  • The Zags forced 16 Cougar turnovers while committing 14 of their own


BYU head coach Jeff Judkins

Overall thoughts on the game

“I’m real proud of our team. We just had a few lapses; one was that we got into foul trouble in the first half. We had to play a zone which kind of hurt us. They hit some shots and we kind of scrambled. They went on that run at the end of the half that hurt us. We fought back in the second half and I thought our girls showed a lot of character and a lot of heart.”

On what made the difference down the stretch

“We had our chances. We just didn’t hit the shots that we had open and they did. That made the difference tonight. When you’re playing on the road, you’ve got to hit those shots. I thought we played really well as a team, though, and a lot of our girls played really hard. Hopefully we’ll learn from this and when we get them next time, we can handle things better.”

On Paisley Johnson Harding’s performance

“She seemed to be the one who wasn’t sped up offensively. It seemed like we were just a little bit quick on our shots, but she did the best job tonight of just playing her normal way. Part of it is she’s been there before. I think that experience helps. I also thought she played really solid tonight defensively. She did a great job on Townsend, who scored but had to earn every basket that she got. I thought Paisley was very aggressive when she got to the basket which helped us.”

Looking ahead

“We’ll learn from this. We’ll get them again at our place and hopefully we’ll be able to take care of business.”

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