Josh Carter | Posted: 9 Mar 2021 | Updated: 4 Aug 2021

Cougars fall 43-42 to Gonzaga in WCC championship game

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LAS VEGAS — BYU women’s basketball fell to Gonzaga 43-42 on a last-second shot Tuesday in the West Coast Conference Tournament championship game.

“It was a tough loss,” said BYU head coach Jeff Judkins. “You’ve got to give Gonzaga a lot of credit. I’m proud of my girls. I thought they played their hearts out. It was a very defensive, physical game. We’re going to learn from it and get better and understand what we need to do when it comes down this.”

BYU vs. Gonzaga Final Box Score

Shaylee Gonzales led the Cougars (18-5, 14-4) with 13 points, four steals and three rebounds, while Paisley Johnson Harding added 12 points, five rebounds, three steals and three assists. Lauren Gustin contributed eight points and a game-high 13 rebounds and Tegan Graham tallied seven points and three rebounds.

Gonzales was named to the 2021 WCC All-Tournament team. 

BYU held Gonzaga (23-3, 18-1) to just 29 percent shooting in the game while recording a 35 percent shooting clip of its own. The Cougars led 36-27 heading into the final quarter but couldn’t quite hold on, as the Bulldogs' Jill Townsend caught an inbounds pass with 0.6 seconds left and hit the game-winning jumper.

With BYU up nine at the start of the fourth, six straight points from the Bulldogs’ Yvonne Ejim brought Gonzaga within three, 36-33, three minutes into the quarter. Gustin ended a five-minute BYU scoring drought with a basket down low to put the Cougars back up five, 38-33, midway through the period. A Gonzales layup at the shot-clock buzzer gave BYU a seven-point lead, 40-33 with 3:35 left.

The Bulldogs used a 6-0 run to cut their deficit to one, 40-39, with 1:34 remaining. On the ensuing BYU possession, Gonzales passed the ball to Harding on an inbounds play and Harding passed it right back for a Gonzales layup, putting the Cougars up 42-39 with 44 seconds left. A Maria Albiero foul then sent Gonzaga’s Jenn Wirth to the free throw line, and Wirth knocked down both attempts to bring the Bulldogs back within one, 42-41.

With 10 seconds separating the shot and game clocks, Harding just missed a driving layup near the shot-clock buzzer and Wirth grabbed the rebound with eight seconds left. On the ensuing possession, BYU forced a missed layup but Sara Hamson and Ejim fought for the rebound, resulting in a jump ball with 0.6 seconds left. With the possession arrow favoring the Bulldogs, Townsend caught the following inbounds pass, turned, and hit the game-winner over Hamson to take the 43-42 win and the WCC Tournament championship.

Both teams struggled to score early on in the contest, as a driving layup by Gonzales tied the game at four mid-way through the opening quarter. Graham and Hamson scored in the paint on consecutive possessions, and Gustin found Gonzales for a layup to put BYU up 10-8 through the first 10 minutes.  

Harding and Gustin both hit midrange jumpers to open the second quarter and give the Cougars a 14-8 lead. A smothering defensive effort aided a 13-0 BYU run, with a corner triple by Graham, putting the Cougars up 19-8. The Bulldogs scored five consecutive points to end an 11-minute Gonzaga scoring drought, but Gonzales hit a corner 3 at the first half buzzer to give BYU a 22-13 lead at the break.

Gustin hit a pull-up jumper and Gonzales scored a fast-break layup off a steal to put the Cougars up 13, 26-13, early in the second half. Teams then traded baskets, as Harding hit a step-back jumper and Graham scored off an inbounds pass from Gonzales. Harding then hit a long two at the shot-clock buzzer as BYU took a 36-27 lead into the fourth.

Despite the Cougars’ nine-point advantage to start the final quarter, Gonzaga outscored BYU 16-6 in the period to seal the win.

The Cougars now await their postseason fate, with the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament Selection Show taking place on Monday, March 15.

Player Notes

  • Gonzales, who was named to the 2021 WCC All-Tournament Team, scored a team-high 13 points to go along with four steals, three rebounds and one assist. Gonzales was also named to the 2019 WCC All-Tournament Team as a freshman
  • Harding tallied 12 points on the afternoon, shooting 4 of 8 from the field, while adding five rebounds, three assists and three steals
  • Gustin pulled down a game-high 13 rebounds and added eight points and one assist
  • Graham scored seven points on 3 of 5 shooting and had three rebounds and one steal in 27 minutes of action off the bench
  • Hamson tallied three blocks, all in the first quarter, to go along with two points, one rebound, one assist and one steal

Team Notes

  • BYU shot 35% from the floor, 13% from three and 100% from the free-throw line. The Bulldogs shot 29% from the floor and 33% from three
  • The Cougars scored 22 points in the paint to Gonzaga’s 18
  • BYU tallied more steals (10-7), blocks (3-1) and assists (9-8) than the Bulldogs
  • Gonzaga out-rebounded the Cougars (41-34) and had 18 bench points to BYU’s seven
  • Over the last eight quarters of action, the Cougars have held their opponents to 10 or less points in a single quarter four times. BYU held Gonzaga to eight first-quarter points and five in the second quarter
  • The Cougars are now 3-3 in WCC Tournament championship games 
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