Five good minutes was all the BYU women’s basketball team could manage against 17th-ranked Gonzaga, and that wasn’t nearly enough.
A 15-1 run to open the third quarter erased almost all of the Bulldogs’ 14-point halftime lead but the Cougars couldn’t maintain that pace. Gonzaga — which lost to BYU three times last year, including in the West Coast Conference Tournament championship game — got its revenge with a convincing 55-43 victory on Thursday in the Marriott Center.
“We got out-executed,” BYU coach Jeff Judkins said. “We seemed like we were scatter-brained a lot on offense tonight. Give Gonzaga credit for that, but part of it was we didn’t do a good job. We just seemed to be a step slow in some things. I know this team can play a lot better than it did tonight.”
Katie Campbell led Gonzaga (2-0 WCC, 13-1 overall) with 11 points and Kaylynne Truong came off the bench to score 10. The Bulldogs balanced their attack with 23 points coming from the non-starters. Nine players scored at least one basket for the Bulldogs.
Babalu Ugwu led BYU (2-1, 7-6) with 10 points and 11 rebounds. Leading scorers Paisley Johnson and Brenna Drollinger — who average about 27 points a game between them — scored a combined 15 points on 6 of 23 from the field (2 of 8 from the 3-point line) and totaled 10 turnovers between them.
“That really affects the team a lot,” Judkins said. “They are our go-to people. They have the most experience, they are our leading scorers and they have the ball in their hands the most. When those two don’t come out and play like they can … not so much offensively but the defensive presence they bring, the movement, the energy and the toughness. Those guys are too important to this team to let that happen.”
If Gonzaga’s strategy was to take Drollinger and Chase out of the game early, mission accomplished. The pair went scoreless in the first half, combining to shoot a miserable 0-for-11 and coughing up six turnovers.
Maria Albiero made two 3-pointers in the first quarter but Gonzaga was patient and efficient, converting 8 of 14 field goals and taking an 18-12 lead after one.
Ugwu came off the bench to give the Cougars a lift, scoring five points and grabbing seven rebounds, and BYU pulled to within one, 18-17, early in the second quarter.
“One of the things Juddy says is whoever comes off the bench has to be ready to play and bring energy,” Ugwu said. “That’s what I try to do.”
But Gonzaga recovered quickly and outscored the Cougars 14-1 the rest of the way, taking advantage of turnovers to get easy looks. Truong dropped in a 3-pointer to beat the buzzer and the Bulldogs took a commanding 32-18 lead at halftime.
BYU went without a basket for the final 8:47 of the second period and missed its last six field goal attempts.
The Cougars scored the first seven points of the third quarter and outscored Gonzaga 15-2 over the first five minutes. Johnson and Drollinger finally got untracked with five points each, and Drollinger’s 3-pointer cut the Bulldogs 14-point lead to one, 34-33, at the 4:58 mark.
“At halftime we talked about the things we needed to do and in that third quarter we got good open shots and made them,” Judkins said. “Then we went back to being scatter-brained.”
Gonzaga sharpened up offensively and executed to perfection over the final five minutes of the quarter, going on a 10-0 run that included a banked 3-point shot by Jessie Loera. The Bulldogs took a 44-33 lead into the final quarter and the closest BYU could get was nine points the rest of the way.
Judkins was honored before the tip-off for winning his 400th career game and was surrounded by former Cougars and their families for the ceremony.
BYU will host Portland on Saturday in the Marriott Center, completing a stretch of four league games in eight days.
“We’ve got to take care of business on Saturday,” Judkins said. “That’s the hard part of conference is you lose a tough game and you have to move on and come back or you won’t have a chance in conference play.”