LAS VEGAS — Paisley Johnson contributed a stellar stat line during the BYU women's basketball team's 68-63 win over Pepperdine on Monday in the West Coast Conference semifinal round, but those stats just begin to tell of the sophomore's impact.
Johnson finished with 20 points scored and five assists, but her energy and defense throughout the second half sparked the Cougars' comeback from being down as many as 13 points during the third quarter.
Down 49-36 with 5:44 left in the third quarter, Johnson was central in helping engineer a 14-3 run to finish up and then cut the Waves' lead to just 52-50 entering the fourth.
"What you saw today is kind of what this team is about," said BYU coach Jeff Judkins. "We've had some downs and we've just come back doing the little things. ... This team is family and they really trust each other and know if they stick together they can do anything they want."
Regarding any schematic switches or words shared to turn things around, BYU players and coaches insisted none were necessary.
"I don't think it's necessarily what was said, but the confidence I saw in (Judkins') eyes — the confidence he had for us," Johnson said.
Brenna Chase started the run with a made 3-pointer, which was followed up by a couple of 3-point plays converted by Johnson and Jasmine Moody before Johnson ended the quarter with a 3-point basket.
They didn't let up at all entering the fourth quarter and until the final buzzer sounded.
A quick 6-2 run to start the fourth quarter gave BYU the lead at 56-54, a lead it wouldn't surrender again.
As mentioned, Johnson played a big impact on the offensive end, but it was her defense that was perhaps the biggest contributor in the comeback. The sophomore guard was able to draw two big charging fouls, but more importantly shut down West Coast Conferece Player of the Year Yasmine Robinson-Bacote to a single point after she torched the Cougars for 18 in the first half.
"They were face-guarding and making it really difficult to get the ball," Robinson-Bacote said. "Credit to them for them for not letting me get looks, but also touches. They did a really good job."
Johnson drew exclusive defensive coverage on Robinson-Bacote, saying, "Juddy put me on her in the second half and I just decided that she wasn't going to touch the ball — just deny her."
Also playing big was BYU freshman guard Shaylee Gonzales, who finished with 17 points and eight rebounds to lead the team in the latter category. Getting rebounds was key to the turnaround in the second half, with the Waves grabbing an austounding 18 offensive rebounds in the first half.
"It's not just the post players. The guards have to find a body as well," Gonzales said. "Coming out in the second half we decided we were going to do that and it really helped us get the lead and take us to a win."
With the win BYU advances to the WCC championship where it will face Gonzaga for the third time this season, after taking two tight wins over the No. 1 seed during the regular season.14 comments on this story
"Gonzaga will be a big challenge. They're a very, very good team and they've been here," Judkins said. "They lost two players who are big pieces of the pie, but they'll figure it out. They always do. They have a great coach."
Those two players likely lost are guards Laura Stockton and Jill Townsend.
Injuries aside, the Cougars are relishing the opportunity to prove themselves yet again in a game that will tip off at 2 p.m. MDT.
"They're excited to play us, but we're excited to, not just to win the conference, but to show the nation that those first two games weren't flukes," Johnson said.