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Video analysis: What cost BYU in its loss to San Francisco, and how it can be fixed for the NCAAs

LAS VEGAS — Early on in the West Coast Conference women's basketball tournament championship, BYU was humming on both ends of the court.

The Cougars made 5 of 6 shots while extending a 3-0 lead to 15-2 in a 2½-minute span, and they held a double-digit lead for more than half of the first quarter against San Francisco.

It was reminiscent of the Cougars' two double-digit wins over Pepperdine and Santa Clara earlier in the tournament.

But by game's end, BYU found itself on the wrong end of a 70-68 final score at the Orleans Arena on Tuesday.

After the early dominance, the Cougars broke down in several facets of the game, leading to a loss that leaves BYU looking to bounce back once it finds out its postseason destination early next week.

Sloppy passing

In the first quarter, BYU did not turn the ball over and shot 50 percent from the field. Those numbers changed significantly after the opening 10 minutes, especially in the second half, when the Cougars had 11 turnovers and shot 34.6 percent from the field.

Turnovers magnified BYU's struggles in the final period, as the Dons outscored BYU 5-1 in points off turnovers in the fourth quarter. With 53 seconds remaining, BYU's Lexi Rydalch turned the ball over with BYU up two, and five seconds later, she fouled Zhane Dikes, the Cougar guard's fifth foul of the game. Dikes hit 1 of 2 free throws, and Rydalch headed to the bench.

Then, with BYU trailing 70-68 in the final seconds, Kalani Purcell turned the ball over in the frontcourt, not giving the Cougars the chance to try to tie or win the game.

Failure to shut down the lane

BYU was outscored 36-18 in points in the paint. Taylor Proctor, named the tournament MVP, was the main culprit, scoring a game-high 27 points for the Dons. Eleven of Proctor's points came in the fourth quarter as twice in the final three minutes she turned a four-point game into a one-possession contest with a layup.

Shooting woes

BYU shot 23 3-pointers in the game and made seven. After the game, BYU coach Jeff Judkins pointed to the high number of 3-point attempts for a Cougar team that averages 17.2 attempts from long range per game, saying BYU needed to work more on getting the ball inside.

In the second quarter, when San Francisco started its rally, the Cougars made just one out of six 3-point attempts, and BYU was 0 for 3 on 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, the last miss coming with 11 seconds left and the Cougars down one.

BYU also hit just 2 of 4 free throws in a 13-second span with a minute and a half to play when it could have extended its lead to six points, but allowed San Francisco to stay with two possessions.

These factors, along with the standout play from the Dons led by Proctor and Dikes, combined to hand BYU a biting defeat in its final game before waiting to learn its NCAA Tournament fate.

How it can be remedied

BYU players were visibly disappointed following the two-point loss to the Dons. Rydalch pointed out that the last time the Cougars lost in the WCC championship game — in 2014 against Gonzaga — they turned that disappointment into a Sweet 16 appearance.

"We can use that (team) as a reminder that this doesn't have to be the end of the season," Rydalch said. "We can learn from it and it can be one more battle that we've been through and learned from and that we've become better from."

Judkins emphasized that this wasn't the typical performance that BYU has been used to in 2015-16, and that reminder can help override any negativity that could come from the stinging defeat.

"This has been a great season. Not everything goes perfect all the time in life," the coach said. "We won the conference, played well this week and in the last couple of minutes didn't execute the way we normally do."

Throughout the tournament, BYU showed several positive signs it can build on. Guard Cassie Broadhead provided a spark off the bench for the Cougars, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer in the third quarter against San Francisco that extended the BYU lead to four points.

Purcell continued her strong rebounding efforts, leading all individuals at the WCC tournament by averaging 14.7 rebounds per game, nearly four rebounds more than the next-highest player. That led to several opportunities for the Cougars to extend possessions and earn points.

Also, star players for the Cougars gave star efforts. Though each had struggles in certain parts of their game during their time in Vegas, Rydalch, Purcell and Makenzi Pulsipher had a good tournament. Rydalch and Purcell were each named to the WCC all-tournament team, as Rydalch averaged 25.3 points per game in Las Vegas and Purcell put up 14.7 points per contest. In addition, Kylie Maeda had the second-highest 3-point shooting percentage at .600, hitting 6 of her 10 shots from long range.

Now the waiting period comes for BYU, with hopes for a strong seed in the NCAA Tournament.

"It's just a matter of picking each other up now," Purcell said.

Email: bjudd@deseretdigital.com; Twitter: @brandonljudd