BYU advances to WCC championship game with 85-55 win over San Francisco
LAS VEGAS — No. 2 seed BYU women’s basketball cruised to a 30-point victory over No. 3 seed San Francisco Monday in the semifinal round of the West Coast Conference Tournament, winning 85-55 to earn a spot in the WCC championship game.
“First of all, I want to congratulate San Francisco,” said BYU head coach Jeff Judkins. “They did a great job tonight. We were just a little bit better. We hit some key shots, and I’m proud of our team. I thought Paisley (Harding) came out really aggressively today which is really good for our team. When she’s scoring, it’s hard to guard everybody. It’s nice to see everybody come out and just play their game.”
Harding led all scorers with 23 points on 9 of 17 shooting, including 4 of 10 from three, to go along with a season-high seven rebounds, four steals and two assists. Harding attacked the basket aggressively from the get-go, scoring 10 first-quarter points to keep BYU (18-4, 14-3) within striking distance after the Dons (15-10, 10-7) went up 19-12 early.
Tegan Graham backed Harding with 14 points off the bench, going 4 of 5 from deep in 22 minutes of action. Shaylee Gonzales stuffed the stat sheet with 10 points, seven assists, six rebounds and two steals, while Lauren Gustin tallied her 14th double-double of the season with 10 points and 10 boards. Sara Hamson added eight points and five rebounds.
As a team, the Cougars shot 53% from the floor, including 75% in the third quarter, while holding San Francisco to 26% shooting. After trailing 19-15 at the end of the opening period, BYU outscored the Dons 49-13 through quarters two and three to take control of the game.
Back-to-back layups by Harding and Hamson gave the Cougars an early 4-3 lead. The Dons, however, knocked down five triples to take a 19-12 advantage. Harding scored BYU’s final eight points of the quarter, including a deep 3-pointer from the top of the key, as the Cougars trailed 19-15 at the end of the first.
BYU came out strong to start the second quarter, as baskets by Harding, Albiero and a Graham right-wing triple put the Cougars up 22-19. A Gustin baseline jumper capped a 12-0 BYU run, and a Hamson jumper followed by a Harding left-wing trey put the Cougars up 29-22. Smiler hit a 3 from the corner and Gonzales scored a fast-break layup as BYU outscored San Francisco 19-3 in the second quarter to take a 34-22 halftime lead.
The Cougars carried their hot shooting into the third quarter, as two layups apiece from Gonzales and Gustin as well as a pair of 3-pointers by Harding gave BYU a 48-24 lead midway through the period. Graham then knocked down back-to-back triples from the left wing to put the Cougars up 30, 54-24. Gonzales hit a trey, Hamson and Harding scored layups on consecutive possessions and Graham hit a 3 from the corner as BYU took a 64-32 advantage heading into the fourth.
Gustin and Graham both scored in the paint to extend the Cougars’ lead to 34, 68-34, two minutes into the fourth. With BYU’s starters resting for the majority of the quarter, the Cougars cruised to an 85-55 win. Kayla Belles-Lee, Tahlia White, Malli Perri, Kyra Beckman and Megan Stevenson each scored in the fourth as BYU secured a spot in the WCC championship game.
The Cougars will face No. 1 seed and No. 16-ranked Gonzaga in the WCC title game on Tuesday, March 9, at 1 p.m. PST on ESPNU. The two teams split the 2020-21 regular season series, with BYU most recently beating the Bulldogs 61-56 in the Marriott Center on Feb. 18. The Cougars will look to secure their first WCC Tournament championship since 2019, when BYU defeated Gonzaga 82-68 in the title game.
In addition to the ESPNU telecast, an audio broadcast will be available on BYU Radio 107.9 FM, the BYU Cougars App and BYUCougars.com/LiveRadio.
- Harding dropped a game-high 23 points on 9 of 17 shooting, including 4 of 10 from distance. Harding scored 10 first-quarter points and 15 in the first half. She also tallied season-highs in rebounds (7) and steals (4) and dished out two assists
- Graham scored 14 points in 22 minutes off the bench, knocking down 5 of her 7 shots, including 4 of 5 from deep. Graham’s four 3-pointers tied her season-high
- Gonzales contributed 10 points, a season-high seven assists, six rebounds and two steals in 28 minutes of action
- Gustin secured her 14th double-double of the season with 10 points, 10 boards and four assists
- Hamson shot 4 of 6 on the game, scoring eight points to go along with five rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block
- Maria Albiero and Kaylee Smiler took turns locking down San Francisco star guard Ioanna Krimili on defense, limiting Krimili to 10 points through the final three quarters
- Transfer forward Kayla Belles-Lee scored a season-high six points in six minutes of play
- All 15 players on BYU’s roster saw playing time during the win, with 12 different Cougars scoring
- BYU shot 53% from the floor, 38% from three and 76% from the charity stripe. The Cougars held the Dons to 26% shooting from the field and 25% from three
- BYU scored 24 points off turnovers compared to San Francisco’s five
- The Cougars dominated the paint, scoring 38 points in the key to the Dons’ 10 and pulling down 41 rebounds to San Francisco’s 30
- BYU won the assist (19-7) and steal (13-7) battles
- The Cougars recorded 32 bench points to the Dons’ 23
- BYU allowed just three San Francisco points in the second quarter, a season-best. The Cougars outscored the Dons 19-3 in the period
- In the third period, BYU dropped a single-quarter season-best 30 points while holding the Dons to 10
- With the win, the Cougars improve to 2-1 this season against San Francisco and 2-1 all-time versus the Dons in the WCC Tournament