LAS VEGAS — In the West Coast Conference Tournament semifinals, the BYU women’s basketball team had only one strong quarter.
And that wasn’t nearly enough for the No. 2-seeded Cougars against the No. 3 Gaels.
Saint Mary’s dominated most of the second half and advanced to the WCC championship game with a 59-49 victory at Orleans Arena.
BYU led by nine points, 29-20, early in the third period but the Gaels rallied and outscored the Cougars 39-20 the rest of the way. Saint Mary’s led by as many as 15 with 2:36 left in the game.
“The third quarter hurt us a little bit,” said BYU coach Jeff Judkins. “We just didn’t make plays when we needed to make them. And those guys did. Congratulations to them.”
In the decisive fourth quarter, the Cougars shot 2 of 14 from the field while the Gaels knocked down 7 of 13. Saint Mary's started the fourth period on a 14-1 run that essentially put the game away.
The Gaels also controlled the paint throughout the game, outrebounding BYU 50-25, and pulled down 21 offensive boards.
“We rebounded,” said Saint Mary’s coach Paul Thomas. “Fifty rebounds. That’s pretty good.”
The Gaels also held the WCC Player of the Year, BYU’s Cassie Broadhead, to two points on 1 of 9 shooting from the floor. Broadhead played much of the game in foul trouble.
“She only scored two points. She’s only had two games all year without scoring in double figures,” Judkins said of Broadhead. “She wasn’t aggressive with the ball. She didn’t guard like she normally does. I don’t know the reason for that. I don’t know if it were her fouls or other things. It wasn’t one of her best games.”
For the Gaels, Megan McKay recorded a double-double with 10 points and 14 rebounds while Shannon Mauldin came off the bench to score 13. Sydney Raggio contributed 12 points and Devyn Galland chipped in 10.
BYU was led by seniors Makenzi Pulsipher and Kalani Purcell. Pulsipher scored a game-high 16 points while Purcell had 15 points and nine rebounds.
Saint Mary’s hit 18 of 20 shots from the free-throw line, compared to 7 of 11 for the Cougars.
“I thought Saint Mary’s played really well today,” Judkins said. “They played their physical style of basketball and that was probably the biggest factor of this game. We forced it too much today and against Saint Mary’s you can’t do that.”
Like in its quarterfinal game against San Diego, BYU got off to another slow start against Saint Mary’s. The Gaels jumped out to a 6-0 lead before the turnover-prone Cougars could get off more than two shots.
BYU settled down but trailed 14-9 at the end of the first quarter.
Midway through the second period, Broadhead picked up her third foul of the game and went to the bench. Even without Broadhead for much of that quarter, the Cougars outscored Saint Mary’s, 18-6. The Gaels shot a woeful 1 of 13 from the field during the second quarter.
Purcell’s 3-pointer with three seconds remaining in the first half lifted BYU to a 27-20 advantage at intermission, the Cougars’ largest lead of the game at that point. Saint Mary’s shot 18 percent (5 of 28) in the first half, including 0 of 6 from 3-point range.
But the Gaels finished strong and eliminated the Cougars.
Saint Mary’s will face top-seeded Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament championship game Tuesday while BYU (20-11) will likely receive a bid to the National Invitation Tournament, which tips off next week.