BYU women’s basketball loses 58-51 heartbreaker to No. 18 Gonzaga

In a game that featured eight lead changes and five ties, BYU women’s basketball couldn’t get it done in Provo Saturday as the Cougars lost 58-51 to No. 18 Gonzaga.

“I’m really proud of my women tonight,” head coach Amber Whiting said after the contest. “They battled, they fought, (the) shots just didn’t fall, and those are the nights where we can take what we can learn from it. But, next time, I know there will be a next time, those shots will fall.”

BYU did not shoot well from the floor, finishing just 37% overall and 18% from beyond the arc. Gonzaga didn’t fare much better, ending with a 36% clip from the floor and 13% from the 3-point line.

So, how did the Bulldogs win this game when they shot worse than the Cougars?

Junior forward and defending WCC sixth woman of the year, Yvonne Ejim, was the difference for the Zags in this one, as she ended the night with 19 points on 8-for-11 shooting, with nine of those points coming in a close and physical fourth quarter. She also finished with 10 rebounds and seemed to control the paint against BYU star Lauren Gustin, who did not finish with a double-double for just the fourth time this season.

One BYU player did stand out on Saturday: Emma Calvert, who went into the locker room at halftime with 15 points on 6-for-6 shooting.

“She just played basketball,” Whiting said about Calvert’s effort, “but that’s the Emma that we see in practice. I love that it came out.” Calvert ended up with 17 points and agreed with her coach on how the game seemed to come to her in the first half.

“I felt pretty good,” Calvert said postgame. “Coach said in the locker room at halftime, I just looked like I was playing loose and that’s how it felt. Instead of ‘it has to go in’ I was just shooting and going with the flow of the game.”

The Cougars were up four at halftime and everything seemed to be heading towards an upset in the Marriott Center, but a four-point third quarter and shooting 0-for-12 from deep in the second half ended up costing BYU down the stretch.

“Those are the shots we wanted,” Calvert went on to say. “There were open threes…so come tournament time, those are going to fall and that is when it matters.”

Not everything was gloomy for BYU as Whiting was, once again, proud of her team’s defensive effort as they limited the Zags offense as much as they could.

“That (defense) is what will win you championships. I told (my team) tonight that we gotta let it burn for a little bit, turn around, let’s get Portland on Monday, and then take that defense with us to the tournament.”

BYU is now 14-14, 9-8 in conference play and still fourth in the WCC standings. The Cougars welcome in second-place Portland to Provo on Monday after extreme local weather conditions postponed the contest for five days. The game will be at 4 p.m. on BYUtv.

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