The BYU women’s basketball team fell 55–66 to Gonzaga in the Marriott Center on Saturday afternoon.
Before the game, the Cougars (19–8,10–4) were undefeated at home, a feat that no player or coach on the team has accomplished at BYU. However, the Bulldogs (24–4, 14–1) came into Provo to prove that they are the number one team in the West Coast Conference.
“Well, we had our chances,” BYU coach Jeff Judkins said. “I have to give Gonzaga a lot of credit… They are a very balanced team. They had some of their key players step up.”
The Cougars were led by Haley Steed and Jennifer Hamson, who had 14 and 20 points respectively. Steed also dished out a game high nine assists, many of which were to Hamson.
“I thought (Hamson) and (Steed) had an outstanding game for us,” Judkins said. “It seemed like they were the only ones who really wanted to take a shot and make a play.”
Gonzaga’s bench outscored BYU’s 20–9, and five of the Bulldogs’ players scored in double figures while the Cougars only had two.
The first half was a rocky start for BYU. The Cougars turned the ball over 14 times in the first half alone (20 overall). Turnovers were a major factor in the game between these two teams earlier this season as well. In BYU’s loss at Gonzaga, the Cougars had 16 turnovers.
“I think hesitation caused a lot (of turnovers),” Judkins said. “They didn’t want to make a play and they passed it to someone else… Part of it is they have to set a rhythm. They did this to us last time. We need to make adjustments.”
Despite the turnovers, the Cougars kept it close for almost the entire game. They shot 40.7 percent, while the Bulldogs only shot a little better with 43.6 percent from the field. The offensive spark from beyond the arc was missing for the Cougars as they made only four three-pointers out of 19 attempts.
Towards the end of the second half, BYU was not able to keep up with Gonzaga. The Bulldogs pulled ahead and never looked back. The Cougars are anxious to forget this loss as they look ahead to the opportunity to play them in the WCC tournament championship game.
“We haven’t played our best basketball against them,” Judkins said. “I know we’re going to be working hard in the next week and hope we get another shot against them in the (WCC) tournament.”
BYU will finish off the WCC regular season play with a two-game road trip, first to Loyola Marymout on Thursday and then to Portland on Saturday.
During halftime, former BYU women’s basketball player Jackie Beene McBride was honored as her number 22 jersey was hung from the rafters.
“This is home for me, so it’s nice that they’re willing to hang some of my laundry up in the rafters,” McBride joked during the ceremony. “The best four years of my life were right here on this court and right here at this university.”
McBride’s jersey is only the second women’s jersey to be retired. Her jersey now hangs in the rafters next to one of her former teammate’s jersey, Tina Gunn Robison.
After the game, the two seniors were recognized. The impact that Steed and Keilani Unga have had on the BYU basketball program is something that will always be remembered. No one was more emotional than the two seniors were. Losing the game made them no more emotional than they would have been, however.
“I think this day was going to be emotional no matter what,” Steed said. “Obviously not winning this game made it a little more emotional on the sad part. I think at the end of the day I would’ve been kind of sad no matter what. The last seven years have had a lot of great memories.”
Between Steed’s three ACL injuries and Unga’s two children, the co-captains have been through a lot. Because of their trials, coming together and being seniors together has meant a lot to them.
“Just being with (Steed) through her ups and downs with her injuries and her being there for me, we never could have seen this coming,” Unga said. “We’ve grown so close together. I’m so happy to be here with her for our senior year. We’re just going to end this season with a bang and just kill it the next two weeks.”