Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Shaylee Gonzales looks at the shot clock during a game against Pepperdine in the Marriott Center. Gonzales leads BYU in scoring as the Cougars look to remain undefeated at home this week. (Preston Crawley)

Can BYU women’s basketball beat No. 16 Gonzaga and stay undefeated at home?

The BYU women’s basketball team and No. 16 Gonzaga, the top two teams in the West Coast Conference and long-time rivals, will play tomorrow, Feb. 18, at 6 p.m. in the Marriott Center.

The Cougars were named the NCAA Women’s D1 Basketball “Team of the Week”  this week as they extended their current win streak to five and improved to 14-3 overall and 10-2 in WCC play. They beat Pacific, Pepperdine and Saint Mary’s all on the road last week.

The Zags are coming to Provo on a 17-game win streak after two home wins last week over San Francisco and Santa Clara.  

BYU came up just short of a comeback against Gonzaga the last time the two teams met on Feb. 2, losing 63-56 at the McCarthy Athletic Center in Spokane.

With the Cougars trailing 52-47 with 3:14 to go, a Gonzaga flagrant foul gave the Cougars two free throws and the ball. BYU capitalized, as Paisley Harding nailed both free throws and Lauren Gustin scored a layup to bring the Cougars within one, 52-51. Following a Jill Townsend jumper, Gonzales drilled a highly-contested 3-pointer to tie the game at 54 with 1:54 remaining.

After tying the game at 54, the Cougars’ comeback attempt came up just short, as Gonzaga ended the game on a 9-2 run to come out with the 63-56 win.

“We’ll learn from this,” BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said after the Gonzaga game. “We’ll get them again at our place and hopefully we’ll be able to take care of business.”

BYU is undefeated at home this season so this matchup is greatly anticipated. The Cougars defeated Gonzaga in all three meetings in 2019, including the WCC Championship, but lost the last three games in a row: twice in 2020 and once this season.

“We had our chances,” Judkins said of the last meeting. “We just didn’t hit the shots that we had open and they did. That made the difference. When you’re playing on the road, you’ve got to hit those shots.”

BYU is going to need to stick with what they do best: shooting, using their bigs, rebounding and running the court, as well as minimizing turnovers and playing their game.

In the last meeting, BYU only shot 38.6% from the floor, 34.8% from three and 67% from the free-throw line. Gonzaga recorded a 43.5% shooting clip from the floor and shot 54.5 from distance. The Zags shot 17-of-22 from the free-throw line on the night, while the Cougars went just 4-of-6. BYU scored 20 points in the paint to the Zags’ 18 and dished out 12 assists to Gonzaga’s nine.

The Zags out-rebounded the Cougars 36-28 and scored 15 points off turnovers compared to nine for BYU and the Zags forced 16 Cougar turnovers while committing 14 of their own.

Judkins said the team was a little all over the place as they rushed their shots. Harding was the bright spot, scoring 17 points. Judkins said it helped that she has been in this game situation before.

The Cougars’ final home game of the season is on Feb. 20 at 2 p.m. against Portland.  

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