In ‘attacking the pressure’ of predictions, BYU women cruise to 1st regular-season title since 2016

The BYU Cougars rejoice after profitable a West Coast Convention sport in opposition to the Gonzaga Bulldogs on the Marriott Middle in Provo on Saturday, Feb. 19, 2022. (Mengshin Lin, Deseret Information)

Estimated learn time: 4-5 minutes

PROVO — After a thunderous, emotional win over Gonzaga within the last residence sport of the common season, BYU ladies’s basketball had yet one more formality left: win the West Coast Convention outright championship.

The formality got here to a head rapidly in Stockton, California.

Shaylee Gonzales poured in 18 factors, eight rebounds, three assists and 4 steals, and Paisley Harding added 14 factors and 4 rebounds as No. 19 BYU rolled to a 82-52 win at Pacific on the Spanos Middle to clinch the Cougars’ first West Coast Convention regular-season title in seven years.

Lauren Gustin added 11 factors and 13 rebounds — her league-high 14th double-double of the season — for BYU (25-2, 15-1 WCC), and Tegan Graham had 12 factors and 5 assists for the Cougars.

It is the primary outright regular-season convention title for BYU (25-2, 15-1 WCC) because the 2015-16 season, and the second total since becoming a member of the West Coast Convention in 2011. BYU additionally received convention regular-season titles underneath head coach Jeff Judkins in 2005-06, 2006-07, and 2010-11 as members of the Mountain West.

Maybe the toughest half for the Cougars, who ranked No. 8 within the NET with a mean margin of victory of 20.9 factors, was how they received that league title: from the entrance. Judkins knew his group had the possibility to do one thing particular.

“I realized a very long time in the past that you do not disguise from stress; you assault it,” Judkins mentioned. “When the season began, we had our objectives and once we acquired picked first, I allow them to know they’ve a bullseye on their again.

“You have to methods to go: both relish it and reap the benefits of it and win a championship, or fold. I do know my group, and so they’re opponents; they took that problem actually arduous.”

The Cougars have been predicted to win the WCC title a yr after a bevy of seniors like Harding, Graham, Sara Hamson and Maria Albiero returned from an additional yr of eligibility supplied by the NCAA because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However BYU did not simply exit and win — the group rolled to the championship, sweeping runner-up Gonzaga and taking up all challengers (apart from one street sport at Portland) to pummel groups by double digits, night time in and night time out.

Saturday was no exception. The one draw back to the afternoon was having to clinch the title and lift the trophy in Pacific’s health club, and never at residence in entrance of a rising era of Cougar followers within the Marriott Middle.

BYU opened the sport on a 16-2 run, led by 5 factors from Harding and 4 factors apiece from Gonzales and Gustin, to spoil the Tigers’ senior day early.

Harding capped a 13-3 run, bridging the primary two quarters with a driving layup that pushed the Cougars’ result in 29-9 lower than two minutes into the second quarter. Gonzales had 12 factors and 7 rebounds within the first half, Harding added 9 factors, two assists and two steals, and Tegan Graham provided 9 factors and 5 assists as BYU took an amazing 50-20 lead into the break.

Even Arielle Mackey-Williams, the freshman reserve from New Zealand had, 7 factors on 3-of-3 capturing within the first half — simply 2 factors off her profession excessive because the Tigers shot simply 25% from the sphere within the first half.

Gonzales took any doubt away from the sport early, not simply offensively, however with a game-high 4 steals and three assists with only one turnover.

“The factor about Shaylee is she’s so targeted on desirous to be the most effective participant,” Judkins mentioned of his star sophomore. “It is the toughest place on the group, however I feel her and Paisley this yr labored so effectively collectively.

“Shaylee does lots of issues; she scores lots of factors, however she does lots of different issues defensively, will get lots of steals, deflections, rebounds, and she or he’s a wonderful passer.”

It was a rout early and a rout usually — one which shut down the West Coast Convention’s web site, which was streaming the sport, just some minutes after tipoff.

The preseason favourite Cougars had waited all yr to clinch their first convention title in seven years, and so they weren’t ready any longer, leaping out to a 71-32 lead after 4 quarters earlier than Judkins put within the reserves to seal the win.

Have been the Cougars good? Not hardly, and the loss to Portland will present that. However they’re going to even be the favorites to win the convention event in Las Vegas — and Judkins plans to assault that week in Sin Metropolis like his group did the common season.

“Did we slip up? Yeah, one time. However I feel once we misplaced that sport (at Portland) after which received at Gonzaga, I feel it set the tone for our group and what they might accomplish,” Judkins mentioned. “I’ve by no means been a coach to shrink back from stress, and my group isn’t that means, both.

“We’re favored to win the event, too, and we’ll exit and combat there, too.”

BYU will open the WCC Match semifinals Monday, March 7, tipping off at 1 p.m. MST on the Orleans Enviornment in Las Vegas.

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