Top-seeded Gonzaga women take on rival BYU in WCC tournament semifinals
March 5, 2023 Updated Sun., March 5, 2023 at 8:12 p.m.
LAS VEGAS – Another high-stakes game against BYU? Why not? It wouldn’t be a proper West Coast Conference tournament without the women Zags and Cougars facing off with a lot at stake.
They’ll do it one last time, at noon on Monday, in the WCC semifinals in the Orleans Arena.
The Cougars finished the regular season 16-15 overall and fifth in the WCC in their last season before leaving for the Big 12, but they outlasted San Francisco 66-56 in the quarterfinals on Saturday to earn one more shot at Gonzaga.
Despite their record they have a good chance, as the Cougars have taken GU to the limit twice this year.
And they’re motivated. Winning the tournament is BYU’s only path to a fourth straight NCAA appearance.
While the Cougars were playing USF, the Zags (27-3) flew into Vegas on Saturday as a solid favorite to pick up two more wins and improve their seeding for a berth that was clinched long ago.
The winner will play Portland or Pacific at 1 p.m. Tuesday for the WCC’s automatic berth.
GU and BYU met in the last two title games with both going the Zags’ way. In 2021, Jill Townsend hit the game-winner at the buzzer, and last year the Zags avenged two regular-season losses to take the trophy.
BYU is led by forward Lauren Gustin, the leading rebounder in the nation at 16.9 per game. On Saturday she had a career-high 27, setting the WCC single-game and tournament record while also going over 500 rebounds this season with 523.
Gonzaga won both regular-season meetings this year, both by single digits: 67-59 in Spokane on Dec. 17, and 58-51 just eight days ago in Provo, Utah.
The common denominator in those games was defense, especially in the second game. Finally fielding a full team, the Zags held BYU to 37% (19 for 51) from the field and just 18% (4 for 22) from long range.
BYU guard Emma Calvert, who burned the Zags for 15 points in the first half, had just two after intermission.
GU shot even worse in that game – 36% from the field and just 13% from beyond the arc.
The Zags have three players averaging double digits, including Ejim (16.4ppg), WCC Player of the Year Kaylynne Truong (16.1ppg) and Brynna Maxwell (13.9ppg).
Maxwell continues to lead the nation in 3-point shooting at 50%.
In one of the best inside matchups on the West Coast, the Zags must find a away to shot down BYU’s Lauren Gustin. The leading rebounder in Division 1 and the focus of BYU’s offense, Gustin averages 16.9 boards and 16.2 points. In their most recent meeting, Gustin was limited to 13 points and eight boards and was outperformed by Gonzaga’s Yvonne Ejim (19 points, 10 boards). That effort helped the Zags to a plus-seven on the boards that afternoon. Gonzaga may need another performance like that to beat the Cougars three straight times and send them packing for the Big 12.
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