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Shaylee Gonzales Among Observations From BYU’s Hard-Fought Win Over Portland

Mar 7, 2022, 4:26 PM
Shaylee Gonzales - BYU Women's Basketball - WCC Tournament...
BYU women's basketball guard Shaylee Gonzales scored a game-high 20 points against Portland in the semifinal round of the 2022 WCC Tournament. (Nate Edwards/BYU Photo)
(Nate Edwards/BYU Photo)

LAS VEGAS – Behind a game-high 20 points from WCC Player of the Year Shaylee Gonzales, BYU women’s basketball took down Portland 59-52 in the semifinals of the 2022 WCC Tournament.

It was a revenge game for BYU as the Cougars faced a Portland team that handed them their lone WCC loss this season. BYU exacted that loss with a hard-fought victory in front of a strong crowd of Cougar fans that attended the Monday matinee in Sin City.

With the win, BYU will now face either San Francisco or Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament Championship Game on Tuesday at 2 p.m. (MT) on ESPNU.

Here are three observations from BYU’s victory over the Pilots.

The long layoff had an impact on BYU

Before Monday, BYU’s last game was nine days ago when they clinched the outright WCC regular-season title. The first game in any tournament is always challenging, but a nine-day layoff after weeks of going no more than five days in between games can alter routines. It seemed to affect BYU as they struggled with Portland.

BYU head coach Jeff Judkins told reporters in postgame that the layoff impacted his players. However, he believes the value of having a long bye will come in the championship round now that they have some familiarity with the court and the environment.

Whenever BYU women’s basketball needs a bucket, go to Shaylee Gonzales

WCC Player of the Year Shaylee Gonzales had the quietest 20 points you’ll ever see the star guard produce in her BYU career. But she always came up clutch when BYU needed her the most. The fourth-year sophomore struggled from distance, going 0-for-5 from three, but she was 8-of-17 from the field and knocked down three clutch free throws in the final two minutes.

In a physical game that tested BYU’s patience, Gonzales’s cool, calm, collected demeanor was a steadying force that BYU desperately needed. She provided a lift to BYU in key stretches and was willing to go down low to battle for rebounds, as she was third on the team with six boards.

Gonzales wasn’t shy about bringing up BYU’s goal of reaching a Final Four in the postgame. Since she arrived at BYU, she has made it clear that she wants to be the first BYU player to appear in four NCAA Tournaments. She’s well on her way to being one of the most accomplished players in BYU basketball history. A big reason for that was on display in a hard-fought win in March.

Portland’s zone defense gave BYU headaches

Portland played a defensive scheme that BYU had not seen all year, a matchup zone defense. In the postgame press conference, BYU players Shaylee Gonzales and Tegan Graham told reporters that was a look that didn’t see much this year.

The Pilots zone led to one of their top frontcourt players in Lucy Cochrane, finishing with eight blocks on the day. Nothing for BYU’s high-powered offense came easy as a byproduct of the Pilots’ defensive scheme.

For BYU to escape a game in the postseason without playing at their best on the offensive end can only serve them well going forward as the battles only get more physical and more daunting the rest of this month.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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