WCC women’s tournament: Can No. 5 seed BYU upset top-seed Gonzaga in the semifinals?
Gonzaga swept the season series against BYU. The Zags beat the Cougars 67-58 in Spokane. On Senior Day, BYU held Gonzaga to 58 points, a season low, but fell 58-51 at the Marriott Center
LAS VEGAS — It’s fitting that the BYU women’s basketball team faces Gonzaga one final time in the West Coast Conference tournament.
The No. 5 seed Cougars and the top-seeded Zags meet Monday (1 p.m., MST, BYUtv) in the semifinals at Orleans Arena.
BYU (16-15) and Gonzaga (27-3) have met five times in the WCC tournament championship game, including in the past two seasons.
In 2021, the Cougars led the top-seeded Zags for most of the game at Orleans Arena, and BYU was ahead by one point with less than one second remaining. But Jill Townsend’s jumper at the buzzer over the Cougars’ 6-foot-7 center Sara Hamson won the title for the Bulldogs, 43-42.
Last March, BYU, the regular season champs and ranked No. 15 in the country, fell to Gonzaga 71-59.
This year, Gonzaga is ranked No. 15 nationally.
The Zags boast the WCC’s Player of the Year, Kaylynne Truong; Coach of the Year, Lisa Fortier; and three All-WCC First-Team selections — Truong, Yvonne Ejim and Brynna Maxwell.
Gonzaga swept the season series against BYU. The Zags beat the Cougars 67-58 in Spokane on Dec. 17.
On Feb. 25, BYU held Gonzaga to 58 points, a season low, and was in a one-point game with 2:13 remaining before falling 58-51 at the Marriott Center on Senior Day.
The Cougars limited the No. 1 3-point shooting team in the country to 2 of 15 from deep.
Emma Calvert scored a career-high 17 points against the Zags. She tied that mark Saturday in the Cougars’ 66-56 quarterfinal victory over San Francisco and hit 5 of 7 3-pointers. As a team, BYU made a season-high 12 3-pointers.
Monday, the Cougars and Zags meet for the third time this season.
“It will be good to sit down as a staff and to see what do we need to get better at, and what do we need to change for that next game,” said BYU coach Amber Whiting. “Just give the girls a lot of recovery and fuel their bodies and make sure they’re ready to go for Monday.”
In the other semifinal game, No. 6 Portland faces No. 2 Portland.
In BYU’s win over San Francisco on Saturday, forward Lauren Gustin broke the WCC record for rebounds in a game with 27. She struggled from the floor, making just 2 of 14 shot attempts.
But other Cougars stepped up, including Calvert, Nani Falatea (15 points) and Arielle Mackey-Williams (14 points).
Meanwhile, defensive stopper Kaylee Smiler held USF star Ioanna Krimili to five points on 2 of 11 shooting.
Gustin, the nation’s top rebounder and the WCC’s Co-Defensive Player of the Year, is the first player in college basketball to reach 500 rebounds and 500 points this season.
Certainly, BYU will have a big challenge against Gonzaga.
Truong is averaging 16.1 points and 4.9 assists. She poured in a career-high 27 points against San Francisco. Ejim averages 16.4 points and 8.2 rebounds per game and Maxwell averages 13.9 points and 3.9 rebounds.
What do the Cougars need to do to vanquish Gonzaga?
“We’ve got to go guard,” Whiting said. “Defense wins championships. I tell (the players) that all the time. We’ve got to start on the defensive end first, how to stop them.”
West Coast Conference Tournament
No. 5 BYU (16-15) vs. No. 1 Gonzaga (27-3)
Monday, March 6, 1 p.m. MST
Orleans Arena in Las Vegas
Radio: BYU Radio/1160 AM