Saint Mary's (20-11) moves on to Tuesday's championship game against Gonzaga, while BYU (20-11) turns its attention to getting a WNIT bid, its dream of making it to the NCAA Tournament for a fourth straight year crushed under a heap of fouls and the Gaels' second-chance points.
"Is it going to hurt tonight? No question," said BYU coach Jeff Judkins. "It is going to hurt all night. But hopefully we will come back and be ready to go and do well in the [next tournament]."
Saint Mary's won the rebounding battle 50-25 and hounded BYU junior star Cassie Broadhead into her worst performance of the season. And that was the ball game.
"We rebounded the ball," said Saint Mary's coach Paul Thomas. "Fifty rebounds. That's pretty good."
"It was a tough game," Judkins said. "I thought we hung in there pretty good in the first half. … The third quarter kinda hurt us a little bit. We just didn't make plays when we needed them and those guys did."
SMC's 6-foot-3 Australian, Megan McKay, grabbed 14 of those rebounds; Kalani Purcell had 15 points and nine boards for BYU, but no other Cougar had more than three rebounds.
"Obviously, my size is a huge advantage," said McKay, who also added 10 points.
Broadhead had scored seven or more points every game this season, and entered the game with an 18.4 average. She had 22 in BYU's 75-66 win over San Diego in the quarterfinals.
The Gaels' guards did their part, but her foul trouble was also a factor. And fellow guard Kristine Nielson's 0-for-8 outing didn't help, either.
The Cougars actually thrived when Broadhead picked up her third foul and went to the bench with 5:23 left in the second quarter, ending the half on an 11-4 run to take a 27-20 lead at the break.
Different story when the Player of the Year picked up her fourth with 3:24 left in the third. Saint Mary's opened the fourth with back-to-back 3-pointers against the Cougars' zone and cruised from there.
"She got a couple early fouls," said Thomas. "That really disturbs a player's rhythm."
Like in their 64-58 loss at Saint Mary's on Feb. 18, the Cougars couldn't keep the Gaels off the free-throw line. Both teams made 19 field goals, but Saint Mary's enjoyed an 18-for-20 effort from the stripe, while foul-plagued BYU was just 7-for-11.
Sixteen turnovers and 34-percent shooting also doomed the Cougars, who went nearly eight minutes into the fourth quarter before getting a field goal. The Cougars opened the fourth quarter with seven straight empty possessions, got a free throw from Brenna Chase, then went two more trips down the floor without scoring. By then the Gaels led 55-40.
"We got away from doing the simple things," said BYU's Makenzi Pulsipher, who led the Cougars with 16 points. "We stood around on offense and then they just packed it in and we didn't take advantage of some of the things they were giving us, and they sped us up too much."