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Gonzaga Women's Basketball

Gonzaga women beat BYU on the road 58-51, clinch outright WCC championship

By Jim Allen For The Spokesman-Review

Gonzaga had the final say in its rivalry with BYU, rallying in the second half Saturday to beat the host Cougars 58-51 and win the West Coast Conference title in undisputed fashion.

The final regular-season meeting lived up to the rivalry, with eight ties and five lead changes before the 18th-ranked Zags won it at the free-throw line.

“I’m really proud of our team, the way we battled,” GU’s Lisa Fortier said after guiding GU to its seventh WCC title in nine years as head coach. “It was not a pretty game, and they still found a way to win.”

Like most games against the Cougars, this one went down to the wire. With less than 2 minutes left , GU led 50-49, but BYU had the ball.

A missed layup led to an offensive board and a 3-point attempt, but the Cougars missed that, too. McKayla Williams got the rebound and passed to Kaylynne Truong, who gave GU some breathing room with two free throws with 1:19 left.

BYU missed three more shots down the stretch as was forced to foul. The Zags responded by making 7 of 8 from the line, and Eliza Hollingsworth sank two more with 19 seconds left to give the Zags a safe 57-51 advantage.

Gonzaga (27-3 overall, 17-1 in the WCC) went into the game needed either a win or a loss by Portland at San Diego. They got both, as the Pilots lost 74-58 later that afternoon.

A loss by Portland at BYU on Monday would give GU a three-game margin in the final standings.

BYU is joining the Big 12 Conference next year, but the teams could meet one more time before then.

The Zags’ next game will be the WCC Tournament semifinals on March 6 at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. Their opponent won’t be decided until Saturday, but if form holds, it would be BYU, which will finish fourth in the WCC and will be on GU’s side of the tournament bracket.

Defense dominated the first half. Gonzaga’s early 5-0 advantage was erased by a 7-0 run from BYU.

GU reclaimed a 10-5 advantage, but the Cougars, buoyed by a big Senior Day crowd, went on a 26-12 run over the next 10 minutes.

A 3-pointer from Kayleigh Truong and a three-point play from Brynna Maxwell with 1 second left helped the Zags narrow the gap to 31-27 at halftime.

Gonzaga dominated the third quarter, scoring just 11 points but allowing just four as BYU made just 2 of 11 shots.

“I liked the way we played team defense,” Fortier said. “Since it was a challenge for us offensively, we had to stop them from scoring baskets.”

Yvonne Ejim had 19 points and 10 rebounds while dueling with BYU’s Lauren Gustin, the nation’s top rebounder. Gustin had a game-high 13 boards but was held to eight points, less than half her average.

Both teams struggled on offense. Gonzaga shot 20 for 55 (36%) from the field and was just 2 for 15 from long range. Maxwell, the leading 3-point shooter in Division 1, failed to make one for the first time this season.

Emma Calvert scored 17 points for BYU (14-14, 9-8), all but two in the first half.