Las Vegas • After a five-year drought, Brigham Young’s women’s basketball team is going back to the NCAA Tournament.
The Cougars earned the automatic bid that goes to the West Coast Conference champion on Monday afternoon at Orleans Arena, beating No. 1 seed Gonzaga 78-66 in the rubber match between teams that have been in the national rankings this season.
The Cougars shot 60 percent from the field and upset the Zags for the second time this season, after walloping them 70-40 in Provo and losing to them 77-60 two weeks ago in Spokane.
Dani Peteson scored 18 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in perhaps the best game of her career for BYU.
Jennifer Hamson scored 17 points off the bench and Haley Steed added 17 as BYU earned its first NCAA bid since 2007.
The Cougars led 36-35 at halftime and slowly built their lead in the second half, despite having WCC Player of the Year Kristen Riley on the bench in foul trouble.
Peterson, the team’s unsung hero, was 8 for 10 from the field and grabbed 11 rebounds.
Stephanie Vermunt’s 3-pointer with 2:52 remaining gave the Cougars a 71-59 lead, and BYU fans began chanting “Why so Quiet?” at Gonzaga’s large contingent, turning the tables after GU’s fans roared that early and often during Saturday’s game when the Gonzaga men’s team beat BYU.