BYU knocks off No. 12 Gonzaga 82-68 in WCC title game
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Brigham Young fed off a loud crowd to win its third West Coast Conference tournament title.
So what if most of the cheers were for Gonzaga. The Cougars used their noise to their advantage.
Brenna Chase scored 25 points, Shaylee Gonzales added 20 and Brigham Young beat No. 12 Gonzaga 82-68 on Tuesday to win the WCC tournament title.
Paisley Johnson added 19 points, Sara Hamson blocked four shots and BYU went 13 for 25 from the 3-point arc to reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016.
“I enjoy playing under the big lights and against big crowds,” said Johnson, the tournament MVP. “As much as they were cheering for Gonzaga, all I heard was cheering and I love that. I fed off it and I think our team fed off it.”
The second-seeded Cougars (25-6) handed Gonzaga its two WCC losses in close regular-season meetings and tried turning the third game into a rout with a dominating second quarter.
BYU scored the first 16 points of the second to build 12-point lead and went up by 16 early in the third quarter.
The two-time defending tournament champion Bulldogs (28-4) rallied late in the third to pull within seven, but missed their first 12 shots of the fourth to end any chance of a three-peat.
Gonzaga lost guards Laura Stockton and Jill Townsend to injuries in its semifinal win over Saint Mary’s. The Bulldogs also played part of the fourth quarter against BYU without coach Lisa Fortier, who left the bench with her husband, Craig, due to a family emergency.
“With everything happening outside of basketball, it really shows it’s just a game,” said Zykera Rice, who led Gonzaga with 25 points.
BYU won the two regular-season meetings, both by two points.
The Cougars rallied from a 12-point deficit to win 70-68 at home and Hamson blocked two shots in the final minutes in a 66-64 home win.
BYU beat Pepperdine 68-63 in the WCC Tournament semifinals and Gonzaga needed two overtimes to beat Saint Mary’s, winning 78-77 on Rice’s buzzer-beating shot.
Rice dominated early in round 3, scoring 10 points in the first quarter to help the Zags build a 23-19 lead.
BYU took control by dominating defensively in the second quarter.
Gonzaga missed its first nine shots and went 1 for 11 in the period as the Cougars took a 42-30 lead into halftime.
BYU stretched the lead 55-39, but Gonzaga made a late run, pulling within 63-57 after BYU coach Jeff Judkins was called for a technical foul and Chandler Smith hit two free throws.
But the Cougars stretched the lead back to 12 early in the fourth and Gonzaga shot 2 for 15 in the quarter.
“The same thing happened to us at Gonzaga,” Judkins said. “We got a good lead and in the third quarter they kept driving it and getting fouls. Since we had that opportunity against them earlier this season, we did a better job of adjusting to that.”
BYU used a dominating second quarter to sweep the season series and leave no doubt about its NCAA Tournament chances.
The Zags will make the NCAA Tournament, but will have a lower seed than if they had won the WCC Tournament.
Fortier and her husband left in the fourth quarter after Gonzaga athletic director Mike Roth walked onto the floor and led them into the tunnel. Roth said the Fortiers had a family matter before the game and thought they could attend to it after it was over, but it later became an emergency.
Judkins said during his post-game news conference that it involved Lisa Fortier’s brother.
“That didn’t have any impact on the game,” Gonzaga assistant coach Jordan Green said. “But I think it put into perspective what this Gonzaga family is.”
Both teams should be headed to the NCAA Tournament.