LAS VEGAS — Plenty of things didn’t go right for the No. 5 seeded BYU women’s basketball team Saturday afternoon in the West Coast Conference quarterfinals against No. 4 San Francisco. 

The Cougars turned the ball over 25 times, and USF scoring 26 points off those turnovers; star Lauren Gustin missed her first 11 shots and finished with just nine points; and three players — Emma Calvert, Nani Falatea and Arielle Mackey-Williams — each fouled out. 

On the other hand, plenty of things went right for BYU in its 66-56 victory over San Francisco at Orleans Arena. 

While Gustin struggled with her shot, as she was bombarded by defenders, she shattered the overall WCC record for rebounds in a game — 27 — and set a new career high.

3 keys to BYU women’s basketball’s WCC tournament win over San Francisco

As a team, the Cougars knocked down a season-high 12 3-pointers on 23 attempts. Calvert led the way, hitting 5 of 7 from 3-point range and Mackey-Williams drilled 4 of 5 from deep. 

Calvert finished with a game-high 17 points, Falatea scored 15 and Mackey-Williams chipped in 14. 

“This is a team sport. Everyone stepped up,” said coach Amber Whiting. “Lauren did struggle (on offense). It wasn’t her night. But we had three others in (double-figures). But we also relied heavily on the defensive end, and they came to play tonight.”

BYU’s defensive specialist Kaylee Smiler locked down USF star Ioanna Krimili, who entered Saturday averaging 16.9 points per game. Krimili missed her first eight shots and finished 2 of 11 from the floor. She ended up with just five points. 

“I had one job in this game. That was not to let her catch the ball,” Smiler said about her defensive assignment on Krimili. “Everybody has their role. I don’t need to be the scorer or the MVP. I know what my team needs.”

BYU’s Kaylee Smiler (11) defends San Francisco’s Ioanna Krimili (21) during the Cougars’ 66-56 win over San Francisco in the West Coast Conference tournament quarterfinals at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday, March 4, 2023. | Nate Edwards, BYU photo

Whiting described Smiler’s defensive performance as “amazing.”

“Every time we sit down as a coaching staff and we look at the other team, we’re always going to give the best guard to Kaylee because she’s a defensive stopper,” Whiting said.

“She has that dog mentality. She doesn’t stop. I ask to do the hard things and she steps up in every single game and does them. She says she doesn’t have to be in the lineup but it’s always the little things behind the scenes that make or break a team. If she doesn’t shut (Krimili) down tonight, we don’t win.”

BYU held USF to 32% shooting overall and 6 of 23 from 3-point range. 

Smiler, meanwhile, was 2 of 2 on 3-point attempts. She made a key 3-pointer with 4:26 left in the third quarter when it was a tight game. 

“When (Mackey-Williams) doesn’t hesitate to shoot, that motivates me to not hesitate to shoot,” Smiler said.

The Cougars trailed 43-39 at the end of the third quarter before erupting in the decisive fourth quarter. BYU scored the first 13 points of the period, which included a 3-pointer by Falatea and two 3s by Calvert. 

But the biggest 3-pointer of the game came from Mackey-Williams. She buried a 3 as the shot clock expired with 3:13 remaining in the contest, propelling BYU to a 10-point advantage, 57-47. 

“On the sideline, I called for a screen and she waved it off, like, ‘No, I got this.’ I was loving it. Just that confidence, we’ve been instilling that in the girls the last couple of weeks, especially when we played San Francisco last time,” Whiting said. “They just weren’t looking to shoot. We’ve been pounding that the last couple of weeks to shoot, shoot, shoot. I love that she has the confidence to step up and do that.”

Calvert and Falatea were on the bench, having fouled out, when Mackey-Williams hit her huge 3-pointer. 

“We can either be sad or mad at the refs because we’re out for the rest of the game and pout about it,” Calvert said. “Or we can help our team, cheer for our team, give them energy. That’s all we can do from the bench. As soon as she hit that three, she made the energy that we could feed off of and give back to her.”

In the final period, BYU outscored USF 27-13.

How were the Cougars able to shoot so effectively from 3?

“Lauren kind of struggled, but because they were quadruple-teaming her whenever she caught the ball,” Calvert said. “Before the game, our game plan was, if you’re open, shoot it because (they were going to collapse inside). With that mindset, we were prepared for them sinking in on her. Shots came from outside instead of inside.”

Gustin’s line in the box score was something of a statistical anomaly — 2 of 14 from the field (she missed her first 11 attempts) and six turnovers. But, wow, those 27 rebounds. Gustin eclipsed her previous high of 24 in two different games earlier this season. 

On Friday, Gustin tied the WCC tournament record for rebounds with 18 against Pepperdine.

“She has that motor. She does not quit. You can’t coach that,” Whiting said. “She has a nose for the ball and she keeps going and going and going. She’s going to get it until you stop her.”

BYU’s Lauren Gustin battles for a rebound amid four San Francisco players during the Cougars’ 66-56 win over San Francisco in the West Coast Conference tournament quarterfinals at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday, March 4, 2023. | Nate Edwards, BYU photo

Gustin scored her first bucket with 6:38 left in the game as part of that 13-0 spurt. 

“She’s going to get hers — and I love that about her,” Whiting added. “Hers, meaning, points or rebounds, she’s going to impact the game in some way.”

With just under four minutes left in the third quarter, Gustin grabbed three straight offensive rebounds off her own misses, despite absorbing a lot of physical play from USF. But the officials didn’t call a foul during that sequence. 

San Francisco coach Molly Goodenbour was gracious in defeat. She praised Gustin and the rest of the Cougars. 

“Congratulations to BYU. They were well-prepared and they shot the ball really, really well. Gustin is an incredible rebounder. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen 27 rebounds in a game by anyone at our level,” Goodenbour said.

“They played well. We had a good game-plan. We did limit Gustin’s points. But their other players really stepped up. That’s a sign of a really good team, is when you have other players fill gaps that need to be filled. They shot the ball phenomenally well.”

BYU advances to the WCC tournament semifinals Monday, when it faces No. 1 seed Gonzaga.