March 8, 2022
Gonzaga gets revenge-inside the WCC Tournament championship game
The Zags used stifling defense and a balanced attack to win their second straight WCC championship
LAS VEGAS- The Bulldogs are champions for the second straight year! Gonzaga got their revenge against BYU in their third matchup of the season, Tuesday at the Orleans Arena. And captured the 2022 West Coast Conference Tournament crown. Here is how the game unfolded, some thoughts on both teams and their NCAA tournament outlook:
Behind a stout defense and balanced scoring attack, Gonzaga won the 2022 WCC tournament championship, defeating BYU 71-59. The teams traded baskets the first five minutes of the game. At that point, Gonzaga started to dominate. The Zags would score the following eight points of the quarter and take a 16-12 lead at the end of one. BYU would score the first basket of the second quarter, but the rest of the quarter belonged to the Bulldogs. They would outscore the Cougars 13-6 the rest of the quarter and take a 29-21 lead into the locker room.
The Zags held BYU to 28% shooting in the first half while shooting 43% themselves. Gonzaga continued to play well to start the third, extending their lead out to 12 with four and a half minutes remaining in the quarter. However, BYU used a 9-2 run at the end of the third to cut the Gonzaga lead to just five heading into the final frame. BYU scored the first basket of the fourth, making it a one-possession game. Gonzaga responded with a 7-0 run, extending their lead back to double digits and forcing a BYU timeout with 6:23 remaining.
However, that was all the Zags would need as they secured the automatic birth to the NCAA tournament. Melody Kempton of Gonzaga was named the Most Outstanding Player of the Tournament. The rest of the all-tournament team was Kaylynne Truong of Gonzaga, Shaylee Gonzales and Paisley Harding of BYU and Merle Wiehl of Santa Clara.
My thoughts on BYU’s performance and NCAA tournament outlook:
The Cougars’ offense struggled in both of their games at the WCC tournament. They never found a rhythm in this game other than the last few minutes of the third quarter. BYU will need to work on their offense, especially when Gonzales and Harding struggle before the NCAA tournament starts. Gonzales and Harding combined for 30 points but shot 10 of 33 from the field. Gonzales did have a strong game on the glass with 12 rebounds, five of which were offensive.
Lauren Gustin was able to have a better game offensively today but struggled in terms of shooting percentage. BYU showed a good fight, cutting the game to three early in the fourth but never got any closer. My NCAA tournament outlook for BYU is the Sweet Sixteen. Despite the offensive struggles today, BYU is a good offensive team and can score with the best of them. They also play very stingy defense. I think playing non-WCC opponents will allow them to have a better showing on offense. Coach Judkins said his team is going to regroup and get ready to battle in the NCAA tournament.
“I told them to keep their heads up, walk out of here proud. Your conference champs. We’ve only done that twice in our eight or 10 years we’ve been here,” Judkins said. “I know we’re excited to keep playing. Sometimes a loss gets you a little more focused and hopefully, that will be the case for us.”
My thoughts on Gonzaga’s performance and NCAA tournament outlook:
The Bulldogs’ defense was very impressive today. They did a great job funneling BYU’s two best players towards help and making them take very difficult shots over length. Gonzaga wanted to make sure someone other than Gonzales and Harding beat them, and the plan worked to perfection. The Zags also did a great job of responding to the BYU run late in the third and early in the fourth, cutting the lead to three. They had a 7-0 run after that point and were able to repel every BYU push to get back in the game.
Offensively, the Zags were incredibly balanced. They had four players in double figures, and no one took more than 11 shots. The Truong twins had 26 points on 8-14 shooting. Kempton added 15 points, four rebounds and three assists. The team is incredibly unselfish, and Coach Fortier talked about how their team is all about “we instead of me.” Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament outlook is the second round.
The Zags have what it takes to battle with whatever first-round opponent they draw, thanks to their defense and balanced attack. They could absolutely pull an upset and make the Sweet Sixteen. But it all depends on the matchup. I am going to play it safe and say second round for the Zags. Coach Lisa Fortier said her team’s unselfishness and “we mindset” is what led them to this championship.
“All the players on our team are a good fit because they’re unselfish and they want to play together and win championships as a team,” Fortier said. “I think the leadership is a big part of it. All of their stories have been about servant leadership and doing whatever the team needs.”
Written by Matthew Walter
Matthew Walter covers the Las Vegas Aces, the Pac-12 and the WCC for the Next. He is a former Director of Basketball Operations and Video Coordinator at three different Division I women's basketball programs.