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BYU women’s basketball: 3 keys in Cougars’ 43-42 loss to the Gonzaga Bulldogs in WCC championship

BYU Cougars guard Maria Albiero (5) swipes at the ball as she and Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Yvonne Ejim (15) battle for the rebound in the finals of the West Coast Conference women’s basketball tournament at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas on Tuesday, March 9, 2021.
BYU Cougars guard Maria Albiero (5) swipes at the ball as she and Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Yvonne Ejim (15) battle for the rebound in the finals of the West Coast Conference women’s basketball tournament at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas on Tuesday, March 9, 2021.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

For much of Tuesday’s West Coast Conference tournament championship game, the BYU women’s basketball team looked like they would upset top seed Gonzaga and earn the league’s automatic NCAA Tournament bid.

That didn’t happen, after Jill Townsend hit a jumper as time expired to lift the Bulldogs to the 43-42 win.

Now, the Cougars will have to wait to find out if they’ve done enough for an at-large NCAA bid.

Here are three takeaways from the game:

  • The Cougars went cold at the absolute wrong time in a game where points came at a premium. BYU scored just six points in the fourth quarter, and just two in the final 3:34 of the game, after taking a nine-point lead into the final period. While the Zags shot 28.6% for the game, they made 5 of 13 shots in the final quarter, including Townsend’s winner off an inbounds play in the final second.
  • Yvonne Ejim was the catalyst behind Gonzaga’s rally. She had just four points heading into the fourth quarter, but Ejim finished with a game-high tying 13 points and scored the first six points of the fourth quarter to help the Zags make it a one-possession game. While BYU responded with back-to-back makes to push its lead back out to seven at 40-33, Ejim scored three more in a 6-0 run to make it 40-39 with 1:34 to play.
  • BYU, which entered the day with a NET ranking of 51, needed a win to ensure they wouldn’t have to sweat out the NCAA selection show. But it was far from a perfect effort, as the Cougars shot 35.3% and turned the ball over 15 times. BYU held a lead for over 30 minutes, but despite holding Gonzaga to 13 first-half points, the Cougars couldn’t hold on to that lead in a heartbreaking loss.