The big game went down to the wire, but ultimately in the wrong direction for the Gonzaga women Thursday night at BYU.
Trailing by three points with 8 seconds left, the Zags forced a jump ball in BYU’s end of the court, but referees determined that the possession arrow was incorrect and awarded the ball to the Cougars.
That was enough to help BYU earn a 61-56 upset win and end Gonzaga’s 17-game winning streak.
The Zags still own a one-game lead over BYU in the West Coast Conference standings, but the loss will probably cost them a few spots in the rankings.
Gonzaga got a game-high 18 points and 10 rebounds from senior forward Jenn Wirth.
Wirth, however, missed a 3-point shot with GU trailing 59-56 with 8 seconds left.
The ball was quickly tied up in traffic, and GU coach Lisa Fortier called timeout and gathered her players together to set up another play.
Almost a minute later, Fortier appeared livid when officials informed her that the possession arrow had not been reset after the previous jump ball.
BYU senior Paisley Harding hit two free throws with 5 seconds left to ice the game and hand GU its first loss since dropping a 75-72 overtime game against South Dakota State on Dec. 6.
With three games left in the regular season, Gonzaga is 18-3 overall and 13-1 in the WCC. Second-place BYU is 15-3, 11-2.
The bizarre ending overshadowed a big GU comeback late in the fourth quarter.
Trailing 55-45 with 4 minutes to play, the Zags got a layin and a foul shot from Wirth followed by a driving layin from Kayleigh Truong to pull within five.
The comeback was almost complete with 46 seconds left as Truong added another layin to cut the BYU lead to 57-56.
After a timeout, BYU used almost the entire shot clock before Harding drove the lane for a layin that restored the Cougars’ three-point advantage with 13 seconds to play.
On the ensuing possession, Wirth got the inbounds pass, shot from the left side of the arc and hit iron.
Gonzaga led 31-30 at halftime, but BYU made six of its next 10 shots to go up 47-43 after three quarters.
Gonzaga forward Melody Kempton had 10 points off the bench on 5-for-8 shooting.
GU senior guard Jill Townsend – her family in the stands for the first time this season – was 1 for 7 from the field and scored a season-low 3 points. Zags guard Cierra Walker was held to two points.
BYU had four players score in double figures, led by star guard Shaylee Gonzales, who had 16 points and seven assists while playing 39 minutes.
Gonzaga was 10 for 30 from the field in the second half and missed all eight of its 3-point shots.
Gonzaga is at San Diego on Saturday, then finishes the regular season next week in the Kennel against Pepperdine and Loyola Marymount.
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