LAS VEGAS — The Saint Mary’s women’s basketball team (20-11) used a big second half to defeat BYU 59-49 and advance to the West Coast Conference Championship game for the first championship appearance since the 2010-11 season.
SMC outscored BYU 39-22 in the second half, including a third-quarter 13-0 run. The Gaels outrebounded the Cougars 50-25 and kept BYU scoreless in the final period for more than the first five minutes of the final quarter.
Saint Mary’s will face top seeded Gonzaga in Tuesday’s title game at 1 p.m. PT, with the winner getting the auto-bid to the NCAA Tournament. Tomorrow's championship can be seen on ESPNU, streamed on WatchESPN, or listened through the Saint Mary's IMG Sports Network on TuneIn radio.
Devyn Galland was also in double figures with 10 points.
BYU was led by Mackenzie Pulsipher led BYU with 16 points, but the Cougars were held to just 33.9 percent shooting and 30.8 percent shooting in the fourth quarter.
Defense and pressure jump-started the Gaels to a 14-9 advantage after the first quarter. Saint Mary’s claimed an early 6-0 lead within the first 2:52 of the match. The Gaels displayed active effort on the offensive glass, recording a 5-0 advantage in offensive rebounds.
Leading 10-3, the Gaels would catch a cold stretch leading to a 6-0 run for BYU. SMC would force BYU scoreless during the last 2:47 of the quarter, as Galland nailed four free-throw attempts for the five-point lead. SMC held the Cougars off the glass to hold the 15-5 advantage in total rebounds.
Tied 14-14 with eight minutes left in the half, Carly Turner led a fastbreak and threw an absolute dime to a running McKay for the tough finish and two-point lead.
BYU would claim its first lead of the game at the 4:49 mark in the second quarter from a turnaround layup by Kalani Purcell. The second seed Cougars would extend its lead to 22-18 with 2:00 remaining. The Gaels offense committed four consecutive turnovers, aiding BYU to a 6-0 run.
Despite the 27-16 advantage on the boards, the cold shooting (5-for-28 FG) and 13 first half turnovers hurt the Gaels, as SMC trailed BYU 27-20 heading into the locker rooms. The Cougars shot a measly 37 percent from the floor (11-for-30 FG) themselves, but the extra possessions from the Gaels turnovers meant the difference in the opening half.
SMC started the second half in rhythm getting stops and scoring, hitting 6-of-10 field-goals and pulling within 33-32 after Beck slipped inside and put one off the glass. The Gaels were within one point at the under five minute media timeout.
Out of the media, Mauldin sank a pair of free-throws to give SMC its first lead at 34-33 since the 5:53 mark of the second quarter. Galland buried a three-pointer at the 3:08 mark in the third to make it an 11-0 SMC run and four point lead. The Gaels would end up outscoring BYU 21-12 in the quarter and held a 41-39 edge heading into the final 10 minutes.
Mauldin and Turner connected on back-to-back three-pointers to open the scoring in the fourth quarter, giving SMC a 47-39 lead at the 9:03 mark. Meanwhile the SMC defense held BYU scoreless for the first 5:05 of the final period. Beck and Megan McKay scored consecutive baskets in the paint and SMC opened up a 53-40 lead at the 3:18 mark. SMC led by as many as 15 and kept the BYU long distance shooters in check for the 59-49.
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