Why this WCC Tournament is so important for the BYU women’s basketball team
A big reason why BYU finds itself in this predicament is because of its regular-season 86-72 loss at San Francisco, snapping an eight-game winning streak. The No. 2 seed Cougars’ next opponent in the WCC Tournament semifinals Monday is that same USF team.
LAS VEGAS — For the BYU women’s basketball team, everything is riding on what happens in the West Coast Conference Tournament.
A big reason why BYU (17-4) finds itself in this predicament is because of its regular-season 86-72 loss at San Francisco, snapping an eight-game winning streak.
As fate would have it, the No. 2 seed Cougars’ next opponent in the WCC Tournament semifinals Monday (3 p.m., MST, BYUtv) is that same USF team.
The No. 3 Dons advanced to the semifinals after defeating No. 7 Saint Mary’s 69-63 in Saturday’s quarterfinals at Orleans Arena.
BYU would love to redeem itself and avenge that loss on Feb. 27 with a win over San Francisco to move on to Tuesday’s championship game.
“We kind of hope we play San Francisco in the semis,” Jeff Judkins, the 2021 WCC coach of the year, said earlier this week.
Judkins knows that despite all his team has accomplished this season, the chances of earning an at-large bid to the NCAAs are tenuous. The Cougars likely will need to win the tournament title to earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament.
“That’s what’s so hard about this league. I don’t understand it. I think we’ve had a great year. People don’t want to play us (in non-conference play). We get docked for not playing a better schedule when nobody wants to play us,” Judkins said. “I think we deserve to be in the (NCAA) Tournament. Even by losing a game to San Francisco on the road. We should still be in the hunt. Does that mean we go and lose in the first round of this tournament and get in? No. But I think if we win at least one game and get to the finals, we should be going. That’s my opinion. But it doesn’t work that way. We know we probably have to win this tournament again. Hopefully, we can be mentally and physically ready to go.”
Guard Shaylee Gonzales, who earned WCC Co-Player of the Year honors, did not play last season due to a knee injury. She’s looking forward to take another shot at a WCC Tournament title. Gonzales helped lead BYU to a championship two years ago as a freshman.
“We’ve got to play BYU basketball. That is, be really good defensively, make people take tough shots, move the ball inside and out and score different ways and take high percentage shots.” — BYU coach Jeff Judkins
“It’s a goal for us as a team and individually. Last year, with my team not making it as far as we wanted to really hurt all of us, even me not being able to play,” she said. “I sat in the locker room and I was like, ‘I don’t want to have this feeling again. I want to work hard with my team and win another WCC (Tournament). We have a great opportunity to, we just need to buckle down, focus and play our game.”
Gonzales said she is not 100% healthy after suffering an MCL against Saint Mary’s on Feb. 13.
“Shaylee’s doing better,” Judkins said. “This rest has helped her.”
So, for multiple reasons, the Cougars are eager for this rematch against San Francisco.
“We were very frustrated with ourselves after that game,” Gonzales said. “We know if we want to go to the NCAA Tournament we need to win Monday’s game and then win the WCC Tournament.”
To accomplish that, Judkins said, his team needs to play the way it has most of the season.
“We’ve got to play BYU basketball. That is, be really good defensively, make people take tough shots, move the ball inside and out and score different ways and take high percentage shots,” he said. “Not give teams second and third opportunities. If we do that, we’re as good as any team in our conference.”
The Cougars were unable to do that at USF.
“Our team is not happy with our performance,” Judkins said. “I don’t know the reason for it. We just didn’t play mentally or physically the way we needed to. We can’t play like that.”
Judkins knows that at this time of year, motivated teams can go a long way.
“I just hope my team is hungry. If they’re hungry and they really want to win, we’re going to do that because we do have the talent and the team that can do that,” Judkins said. “There’s a lot of kids that want to prove that we’re the best team. If they have that attitude, we’ll go down there and win this tournament.”
No. 2 BYU (17-4) vs. No. 3 San Francisco (15-9)
Monday, 3 p.m., MST