The BYU women’s basketball team was ousted from the West Coast Conference tournament on Saturday afternoon by the Gonzaga Bulldogs in a 62–43 loss.
Both BYU and Gonzaga struggled at the start of the game, with the first two possessions resulting in turnovers for both teams. Sloppy play resumed on both sides of the ball throughout the first couple minutes. The Bulldogs started to clean up their play, hitting the first two baskets of the game.
“I was proud of our team,” BYU coach Jeff Judkins said. “We played really well for the first 15 minutes of the game and then we let down a little bit at the end of the half.”
Defense was the only thing working in the Cougars’ favor during the first half. Keilani Unga played aggressively on the defensive end of the court, forcing the Bulldogs’ post players to make mistakes. Haley Steed managed the Cougars on the other side of the ball, setting up offensive sets and finding Jennifer Hamson in the paint. Hamson and Steed were the high scorers for BYU in the first half with just four points each.
“Gonzaga is a really good team, (and) they beat us three times this year,” Judkins said. “They have a very balanced and strong team.”
BYU struggled to find an answer for Gonzaga’s Shelby Cheslek, who led the game in scoring with nine points. Gonzaga shot 46.4 percent from the field while BYU only shot 23.1 percent in the first half. In Friday’s game, BYU beat the LMU Lions from the three-point line but was only able to go 1–8 from beyond the arc during the first half of play.
Whenever BYU would begin to chip away at Gonzaga’s lead, the Bulldogs would answer with tough defense and smart plays on offense. BYU came within one point with just under four minutes to play, but the Bulldogs managed to increase their lead to 11 by the end of the half. The Cougars finished the half down by a score of 30–19.
“They did a really good job of taking us out of our motion tonight,” Ashley Garfield said. “I don’t think we executed that the way we wanted to.”
The Cougars continued to struggle at the start of the first half with two quick turnovers. The Bulldogs continued to put pressure on the ball, forcing BYU to make mistakes.
“I think (Gonzaga was) really getting out and running,” Garfield said. “They used our turnovers to their advantage.”
Hamson got into foul trouble early and had to come out of the game just five minutes into the second half, leaving Unga with the bulk of the rebounding responsibilities. Garfield came off the bench for the Cougars, scoring three times and providing BYU with some much-needed help on offense.
“We had a few defensive lapses, and we let them score,” Hamson said. “We have some things to work on for next year.”
Despite efforts to make changes to the line-up in order to combat Gonzaga’s momentum, BYU was unable to match the Bulldogs’ intensity on both sides of the ball. BYU ended up turning the ball over 22 times and only scored 16 baskets from the field and two from three-point range. Morgan Bailey led the Cougars in scoring with 12 points, followed by Steed with eight. Both Steed and Unga led the team in rebounds with seven each.
“Hopefully we will learn from this and improve as a team and be ready for next year,” Judkins said.
BYU finished the season with an overall record of 21–10 and a conference record of 11–5. The Cougars lose two seniors, Steed and Unga, for the 2013–14 season.