LAS VEGAS — The BYU women’s basketball team outscored Gonzaga 39–23 in the second half to upset the top–seeded Bulldogs 61–55 in the WCC tournament semifinals on Monday.
“You saw two teams who really wanted it, but the ball bounced our way tonight,” coach Jeff Judkins said. “To be able to play defense like that in the second half is a coach’s dream.”
Makenzi Morrison led all scorers with 18 points on 6-of-10 shooting, while Lexi Eaton scored 16 and Xojian Harry added 13.
After trailing 32–22 at halftime, the Cougars came into the second half with new momentum thanks to 3-pointers from Xojian Harry and Lexi Eaton. A Morrison jumper then cut the deficit to 33-38 with 15:42 left in the half. Following a Gonzaga score, Harry was able to hit another three to make it 36-40. The Bulldog’s Lindsay Sherbert responded with a three of her own, only for Morrison to respond right back with another of her four made three-point shots.
“It was key for our team to stick to our defensive principles, because that’s where Gonzaga’s beat us every time,” Morrison said. “For us to be as sharp as we were was big for us to get our momentum going.”
With 6:20 left to go, Morgan Bailey made two free throws to tie the game at 48-48. Morrison responded to the Zags’ Emma Wolfram’s two-point jumper with another three to give the Cougars a 51-50 advantage, their first lead since the 16:51 mark in the first half. Back-to-back trips to the free throw line for Eaton gave BYU a 55-50 lead with just under three minutes left in the game.
Momentum appeared to have swung back to the Bulldogs at the 1:34 mark when Bailey recorded her fifth foul, forcing her to exit the game. Keani Albanez promptly hit a 3-pointer to cut BYU’s lead to 57-55 with 1:00 to go. The Zags then stole the inbound pass, but the Cougar defense held strong and forced a turnover with only 35 seconds left on the clock. Another pair of Eaton free throws extended the lead to 59-55, and BYU’s suffocating defense held Gonzaga scoreless the rest of the way.
“We all came out tough and stepped up where we needed to,” Eaton said. “I’m really excited about our attitude and state right now; we have a lot of momentum going into our next game.”
Notes: The game started out with Gonzaga taking a 16-8 with 10:03 left in the first half. BYU was able to keep the score close until a 6-0 Bulldog run to close out the half made the score 32-22. The Zags pulled down 23 rebounds and committed only eight turnovers in the first half, compared to BYU’s 16 rebounds and 11 turnovers. BYU shot 50 percent in the second half, while the Bulldogs shot only 25 percent with ten turnovers. Gonzaga out-rebounded BYU 43-29 in the game. The Cougars had a 37 percent field goal percentage with 40.9 percent from three-point range and 78.3 percent from the free-throw line. The Bulldogs shot 32.8 percent, 28.6 percent from the three-point line and 81.3 percent from the free-throw line.