STANFORD, Calif. — The BYU women's basketball team exceeded expectations all year, but couldn't quite do the same on Monday, losing to No. 2 seed Stanford 72-63 in the second round of the NCAA tournament. The game saw the Cougars start strong but fizzle late, with anyone not named Shaylee Gonzales struggling to get much of anything going through critical moments on the game.
"I'm very, very proud of my team. I felt they came out with a lot of fight, we just had a really bad quarter," said BYU coach Jeff Judkins. "Against a team like Stanford, you just can't afford to do that. ... But it's just the start for us. We're going to continue to get better."
As for Gonzales, she was impressive throughout, ending the first half with 15 points and finishing with a game-high 32. The 5-foot-10 guard again proved an ability beyond her years, executing precisely and effectively, managing to take and even exploit whatever Stanford's stingy defense threw at her.
"It's an amazing experience to be where I'm at right now," Gonzalez said. "... I just wanted to prove myself and show that even though I'm a freshman I can do anything. It doesn't matter if you're a freshman or a senior — just work your butt off and it will pay in the end."
Point proven, with the media gushing over Gonzalez's performance during the postgame press conference, along with Judkins and her teammates.
"Shaylee has really grown this whole year," added BYU senior forward Jasmine Moody. "She's really taken to heart what our coaches and her teammates have said to her. ... She's only going to get better from here, so we're so blessed and happy to have her part of our team."
Unfortunately for the Cougars, other contributions were too few and far between, with no one other than Paisley Johnson providing much on the offensive end, although the sophomore guard was forced to the bench midway through the third quarter after picking up her fourth foul.
Stanford took full advantage of Johnson's absence, setting out on a 16-0 run to take full command, building a 50-35 lead as the third quarter wound down.
"It really hurt us because her sub is Maria (Aliero), who is a 5-8 points guard, who has to go in and battle (Stanford's bigger players)," Judkins said. "... So that affected us tonight. Paisley is a real explosive player ... and she's not used to players being as physical as she is."
The Cougars played well during the fourth quarter, with junior guard Brenna Chase finally making true on consecutive 3-point attempts after starting the game 0 of 8, along with Jasmine Moody scoring some key buckets. But it was all too little too late, with the hole dug in the third quarter proving too much to overcome.
Leading the way for Stanford was Dijonai Carrington, who was central in Stanford's run while finishing with 19 points, and Alanna Smith, who converted on several 3-point opportunities to finish with a team-high 25.
The play was physical throughout the first half, with the officials letting the teams bang away on both ends. The Cougars trailed early, but managed a 10-0 run from around the four-minute mark of the first quarter to the 6:30 mark of the second to lead 18-11.27 comments on this story
Gonzales led the charge on the offensive end while the Cardinal struggled to hit a 3-pointer versus BYU's zone defense. At one point Stanford was 1 of 12 from behind the arc before Carrington came alive to swish through consecutive 3-point attempts to cap off a 9-0 Cardinal run and put the home team up 20-18 with 6:50 left in the half.
As mentioned, things went south quickly for the Cougars in the second half, with Stanford's defense accounting for just 3-of-16 shooting from the visiting team in the critical third quarter, which all but decided the game.
Adding to Gonzales' 32 was Johnson's 11 points with Chase and Moody both adding eight.
The loss ends BYU's season with Stanford advancing to the quarterfinal round where it will take on Missouri State.