The Zags punched their ticket to the NCAA Tournament in style Tuesday night against BYU.
The Madness is upon us and conference finals this week have certainly lived up to the hype. And the Gonzaga vs BYU West Coast Conference championship game Tuesday night had plenty of that.
Funny story… as many as eight Bulldogs actually suffered food poisoning the night before the game, including three starters who didn’t end up starting.
But the Zags managed to fight off the stomach bug and edge out the Cougars, 43-42, to claim the WCC crown for the ninth time in program history. Senior guard Jill Townsend made her only field goal of the game with 0.6 seconds on the clock – securing the victory at the buzzer.
An uncharacteristic first half saw the Zags shoot just 17.2 percent from the floor and commit whopping 12 turnovers. BYU, however, was unable to capitalize on the opportunity and scored only six points off said turnovers.
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What the Bulldogs lacked on offense, they made up for on defense, limiting the Cougars to 22 first-half points off 32.1 percent shooting while forcing seven turnovers. Gonzaga also controlled the glass, 25-19, while limiting BYU to five offensive rebounds. At the break, BYU led by nine (22-13).
The Zags came out of the locker room a little stronger in the third quarter, thanks to eight points from sophomore guard Kaylynne Truong. Truong ended up finishing the quarter 3-of-4 from the floor and 2-of-3 from long range. GU improved to 42.9 percent from the floor and improved its ball control, but the Cougars had their claws in a double-figure lead until the last minute of the third, when a jumper from Melody Kempton made it 36-27.
Gonzaga continued to chip away at the lead in the final quarter, forcing four turnovers on the Cougars right off the bat. Freshman Yvonne Ejim was big in the fourth, scoring four points on her own to cut the lead to five with less than eight minutes of play left. Just 30 seconds later, she sank another bucket to make it a one-possession game at 36-33.
The Cougars answered with two straight baskets to extend their lead to seven, but not for long as back-to-back buckets and a three from Eliza Hollingsworth along with a layup from Ejim brought GU within two points. Just two and a half minutes on the clock now.
After a Gonzaga timeout with ten seconds left in the game, Ejim secured an offensive rebound after a missed contested layup, forcing a jump ball. The Bulldogs had another shot with only two seconds left. Kayleigh Truong found Townsend on the inbounds, and with 0.6 seconds left she drilled her only field goal of the game, but it’s the one that mattered most.
Gonzaga defeated BYU 43-42 to win the WCC Tournament title and punch their ticket to the NCAA Tournament. It’s their 12th trip to the dance in program history (not including last season, where GU was projected to be a No. 3 or No. 4 seed before the tournament was canceled).
“When the chips were down and we needed a rally, our team just showed incredible grit and toughness and resilience, and I couldn’t be more proud of them,” Townsend said. “It wasn’t just the shot I hit, it was everything that happened before to get us in that position.”
Townsend was named the Most Outstanding Player and named to the All-Tournament Team, along with Ejim.
Around the NCAAW
Pac-12 Tournament Champions: Stanford
SEC Tournament Champions: South Carolina
ACC Tournament Champions: NC State