BYU completes season sweep of No. 13 Gonzaga with late-game free throws

No. 13/12 Gonzaga fell to visiting BYU 66-64 Saturday afternoon in the McCarthey Athletic Center.

Gonzaga (23-3, 12-2 WCC) dominated BYU (20-6, 12-3 WCC) in the paint, outscoring the Cougars 36-16 while controlling the glass 36-30. Yet BYU’s hot shooting from beyond-the-arc proved detrimental as the Cougars shot 54.5 percent from long range and doubled their season average with 12 made threes.

Zykera Rice led the Zags with 20 points (the fourth time this season she’s scored at least 20), and the senior added five rebounds, one block and a steal. Jill Townsend also finished in double-figures with 12 points to go along with six rebounds and two steals. Laura Stockton finished with eight points, three assists and two steals; her three assists tie her at third all-time in program history with Amy Simpson (439, 1982-86).

“When it comes down to a two-point game, there are so many things you can point to on the stat sheet, and several things that don’t show up on the stat sheet that are obvious to those of us that know our team and our game plan,” head women’s basketball coach Lisa Fortier said. “I’m sad that we get to listen to them celebrate instead of us for a second time.”

BYU was nearly unstoppable in the opening quarter from long range as the Cougars hit six treys in the opening period, just shy of their season average of 6.6 made threes per game. Gonzaga finished 5-of-13 from the floor in the first to shoot just 38.5 percent and trailed BYU 24-13 heading into the second period.

The Bulldogs picked it up in the second quarter, netting 9-of-17 attempts to shoot 52.9 percent, but BYU continued to hit from long range as it made 4-of-7 treys. A layup from Jill Townsend with 2:52 remaining cut the lead to four (34-30), but 25 seconds later BYU responded with another trey to extend the lead to seven. The Cougars closed the quarter on a 6-4 run to lead 43-36 heading into the break.

The two programs played each other nearly evenly in the third with each scoring 15 points. By the start of the fourth period, Gonzaga had clawed its way back to within seven points, 58-51. With 6:39 to go in the fourth, Rice converted an old-fashioned three-point play, scoring the layup in traffic and sinking the ensuing free throw to bring the Zags within three (59-56). But another BYU trey, this time from Brenna Chase, gave the Cougars a six-point lead (62-58) with 6:12 to go.

The Bulldogs locked down defensively and continued to push, limiting BYU to just six points in the quarter until the final seconds. BYU’s Paisley Johnson was fouled with two seconds to go to put the Cougars in the bonus. Johnson hit both free throws to seal the 64-62 win.

BYU was led by Shaylee Gonzales with 19 points off 7-of-11 shooting including 5-of-8 from long range, while Brenna Chase and Paisley Johnson added 14 and 12, respectively.

Gonzaga hits the road next week for games at Santa Clara (Feb. 21) and at San Francisco (Feb. 23).