PROVO — It's hard playing catch-up against a team the caliber of Gonzaga, something the BYU women's basketball team learned the hard way during Saturday's 84-70 loss to the visiting Bulldogs. The win improved Gonzaga's West Coast Conference record to 12-0 while the Cougars fell to 8-4.
A slow start, caused by poor shooting from the field, among other factors, saw Gonzaga surge to a 21-10 lead after one quarter. The Cougars rebounded to play better from there, but they couldn't make any inroads for the final three quarters, as the Bulldogs adjusted to and answered pretty much everything thrown their way.
"It's hard because they don't beat themselves," said BYU coach Jeff Judkins. "They take good shots and you just can't get down to a team like that early — especially at home. You have to come out ready to go."
The Cougars had good looks in the first quarter, according to Judkins and Cougar guard Cassie Devashrayee, but they just couldn't make them go down, for whatever reason.
John Stockton watches as his daughter, Gonzaga Bulldogs guard Laura Stockton plays against BYU during NCAA basketball in Provo on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2018. | Ravell Call, Deseret News
"We had a hard time making shots today, and they were on fire," Devashrayee said. "So it's hard to beat a good team when you're not hitting the open shots you have."
On fire throughout the game, and particularly during the first half, was Gonzaga's Jill Barta. The 6-foot-3 forward had her first eight shots go through the hoop, and she finished the first half with 19 points and 11 rebounds, as Gonzaga went into the break leading 38-26.
Judkins compared Barta's game to that of former Utah Ute great Keith Van Horn, given her ability to beat a team from both the paint and the perimeter, among other factors.
"I think she set the tone at the first of the game," Judkins said. "She was a tough matchup for us tonight. We tried a couple of things, but they have a lot of weapons, and you can't stop all of their weapons."
Also playing big for the Bulldogs were Emma Stach, who contributed 16 points and Chandler Smith, who pulled down nine rebounds and dished out seven assists. Barta ended the game with a game-high 34 points and 15 rebounds.
The Cougars showed good life at the outset of the second half, scoring four straight to cut the lead to eight, but yet again, Gonzaga proved to have the answer and quickly built the lead back up to 13. The Bulldogs continued to hold the Cougars at bay throughout the fourth quarter, although the home team did make a little run toward the end.
Leading things for BYU was once again Devashrayee, who scored a team-high 24 points. Sara Hamson and Malia Nawahine each added 10 points, with Judkins leaving the game pleased at some things he saw from his younger players.
"I thought some kids showed some things tonight — some positive things — that I hope that they can build on," Judkins said.
Devashrayee left disappointed yet encouraged and confident her team can beat the WCC conference leaders.
"Hopefully, none of my teammates leave here thinking we can't beat them, because we can," Devashrayee said. "We definitely have the potential and if we can string together some stops and make shots, then we can."
BYU, which currently sits in second place in the WCC standings, will next hit the road against Santa Clara and then San Francisco next weekend.