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BYU rallied to give No. 19 Gonzaga a late scare before falling short

After trailing most of the game, the Cougars roared to life in the fourth quarter, cutting into their 44-34 deficit thanks in part to a couple of 3-pointers by Tegan Graham

In this Jan. 7, 2021 file photo, BYU’s Tegan Graham shoots free throws during a game against Santa Clara. Despite Graham’s best efforts, the Cougars fell to Gonzaga Tuesday night.
Jaren Wilkey, BYU Photo

The BYU women’s basketball team threw a scare into No. 19 Gonzaga Tuesday night at The Kennel.

But ultimately the Zags prevailed, 63-56.

After trailing most of the game, the Cougars roared to life in the fourth quarter, cutting into their 44-34 deficit thanks in part to a couple of 3-pointers by Tegan Graham.

Later, Shaylee Gonzales buried a 3-pointer with 1:50 remaining to tie the score at 54-54.

“We fought back in the second half, and I thought our girls showed a lot of character and a lot of heart,” said coach Jeff Judkins.

However, the Zags answered with a couple of 3-pointers of their own by Cierra Walker to propel them to a 60-54 advantage with 58 seconds remaining.

And BYU couldn’t recover.

“We had our chances. We just didn’t hit the shots that we had open and they did,” Judkins said. “That made the difference tonight. When you’re playing on the road, you’ve got to hit those shots. I thought we played really well as a team, though, and a lot of our girls played really hard. Hopefully we’ll learn from this and when we get them next time we can handle things better.”

With the win, Gonzaga (16-2, 11-0) won its 15th consecutive game. The Bulldogs were led by Jill Townsend’s game-high 18 points.

Paisley Johnson Harding paced BYU (9-3, 5-2) with 17 points and Gonzales added 12.

Judkins praised Harding’s consistent play against Gonzaga.

“She seemed to be the one who wasn’t sped up offensively. It seemed like we were just a little bit quick on our shots, but she did the best job tonight of just playing her normal way,” he said. “Part of it is she’s been here before. I think that experience helps. I also thought she played really solid tonight defensively. She did a great job on Townsend. Townsend scored, but she had to earn every basket that she got. I thought Paisley was very aggressive when she got to the basket which helped us.”

The Cougars shot 38% from the field, including 8 of 23 from 3-point range, and had 16 turnovers.

With seven minutes left in the second quarter, BYU seized a 20-16 lead after a 3-pointer by Kaylee Smiler.

Gonzaga then went on a 14-2 run to end the half, including three 3-pointers. The Zags went into the locker room at intermission with a 34-22 advantage and eventually pushed their lead to as many as 14 in the third quarter, 36-22.

BYU is scheduled to host Pepperdine Thursday.

“I’m real proud of our team. We just had a few lapses; one was that we got into foul trouble in the first half,” Judkins said. “We had to play a zone which kind of hurt us. They hit some shots and we kind of scrambled. They went on that run at the end of the half that hurt us. … Hopefully we’ll learn from this. We’ll get them again at our place and hopefully we’ll be able to take care of business.”

BYU is scheduled to entertain Gonzaga on Feb. 18.