Shaylee Gonzales takes a shot during BYU's 74-63 win at San Diego. (BYU Women's Basketball)

Gonzales’ season-high 29 points help BYU women’s basketball get 74-63 win over San Diego

Shaylee Gonzales and strong team defense helped BYU women’s basketball shake off some rust and sloppy play to come up with their sixth straight win in a hard-fought 74-63 win over the San Diego Toreros.

Gonzales, who came into the game as the West Coast Conference’s leading scorer, averaging over 18 points a game, led the way for the Cougars, filling up the stat sheet with a season-high 29 points, while adding eight rebounds and four assists, going 11-of-15 from the field.

The win pushes BYU to a 15-1 record overall and a 5-0 record in WCC play, their first time doing that since the 2018-19 season when they started WCC play by winning their first nine games.

The Cougars got off to a sloppy start on the offensive end, coughing up the ball a total of seven times in the first quarter alone. They came into the game averaging only 13 turnovers per game. Gonzales and solid defense allowed BYU to take a 15-11 advantage after the first quarter. Gonzales scored 11 of the Cougars’ 15 points in the quarter.

The sloppy play continued throughout most of the second quarter with four more turnovers for BYU before halftime. After a few quick baskets by BYU, San Diego went on a 13-4 run to take a 24-23 lead midway through the second quarter but BYU responded to take a 36-32 lead at halftime behind 16 points from Gonzales.

“That’s how San Diego plays,” BYU head coach Jeff Judkins said. “They make you do a lot of things to get you out of rhythm. We did a much better job in the second half.”

The second half was a completely different story for the Cougars as they were able to limit the turnovers and get some easy buckets in transition to jump out to a 64-44 lead with six minutes to go in the fourth quarter.

The Toreros showed a lot of fight and were able to cut BYU’s 20-point lead to nine with about one minute to go, but BYU hit enough free throws and got enough stops down the stretch to hold on for the victory.

Gonzales seemed to step up and deliver for the Cougars any time they needed a bucket. She has struggled from three so far this season, coming into the game shooting 19% from distance, but was able to knock down a couple of big ones for BYU, going 2-of-3 for the game. She was constantly on the attack and able to get to the basket at will, scoring 16 points off of layups.

This was the first game No. 17 BYU played since back-to-back 40-point wins last week against Saint Mary’s and Loyola Marymount. The Cougars were originally scheduled to play at Pepperdine on Thursday but that game was postponed due to COVID-19 issues within Pepperdine’s program.

A big difference in the game was field-goal percentage as BYU was able to outshoot San Diego from the field 55.8% to 36.7%. BYU also dominated inside, outscoring the Toreros 48-30 in the paint.

Paisley Harding added 19 points, five rebounds and three assists for BYU and Lauren Gustin fell just short of another double-double with eight points and 10 rebounds to help BYU get the win.

“Those two girls were very good today,” Judkins said of Harding and Gonzales. “It’s relieving to have those two. They let the game come to them, especially today. It made a big difference. They let the system get them shots and let their teammates help them.”

San Diego was led by Jordyn Edwards and Kasey Neubert who added 13 and 10 points respectively for the Toreros.

Both BYU and San Diego will travel back to Provo where BYU will look to make it a clean sweep on Monday when they host the Toreros at the Marriott Center at 5 p.m. MST.

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