BYU holds off No. 23 Gonzaga
Cougars will make first tournament appearance since 2007
LAS VEGAS -- Dani Peterson scored a career-high 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to help Brigham Young beat three-time defending champion Gonzaga 78-66 for the West Coast Conference tournament title on Monday.
The Cougars (26-6) won their first WCC tournament after 12 years in the Mountain West Conference. The victory earned them an automatic bid for their first NCAA tournament appearance since 2007.
Sophomore Haiden Palmer led No. 23 Gonzaga (26-5) with a career-high 28 points. Kayla Standish added 18.
Tournament MVP Haley Steed and reserve Jennifer Hamson had 17 points apiece for BYU, which outrebounded the Bulldogs 36-21.
The teams split their regular-season series, with BYU winning 70-40 in Provo, Utah, on Feb. 9 and Gonzaga rolling to a 77-60 victory on Feb. 25. But Gonzaga had owned the WCC tournament.
The top-seeded Bulldogs were playing in a record sixth consecutive championship and seeking to become the first team to win four straight WCC women’s tournament titles.
BYU grabbed control by turning up its defense in the second half, holding Gonzaga to 34.4 percent shooting after the break.
Hamson’s 17 points came on 7-of-11 shooting, while Peterson made 8 of 10.
Steed went 3 for 4 from beyond the arc as the Cougars went 7 for 14 from 3-point range.
Standish was 6 for 16 from the field. Katelan Redmon fared even worse, going 3 of 11.
The first half was a series of runs.
Gonzaga put together a 9-0 surge, holding BYU scoreless for more than 4 minutes, to build a 32-24 lead with 5:09 remaining.
Palmer fueled the run with five straight points. The sophomore made her first seven shots from the field, including a pair of 3-pointers, and finished the first half with 16 points.
The Cougars fought back a third time behind freshman Lexi Eaton, Kristen Riley and Steed, outscoring Gonzaga 12-3 over the final five minutes of the half.
BYU led despite committing 11 first-half turnovers that led to 13 Gonzaga points.