BYU suffers early exit at WCC women’s basketball tournament, loses 61-56 to San Diego

Las Vegas • Third-seeded BYU got a third chance to beat sixth-seeded San Diego at the West Coast Conference women’s basketball tournament Thursday night after getting swept by the Toreros in the regular season.

But the Cougars were buried in an avalanche of second-chance points.

Turning their 15 offensive rebounds into 22 second-chance points, the Toreros advanced past BYU 61-56 in a quarterfinal game at Orleans Arena.

“It seemed like tonight was kinda like what our season has been like,” said BYU coach Jeff Judkins. “We lost three times like this to San Diego, three games that went right down to the wire.”

It was the first time in seven trips to the WCC tournament that Judkins’ team has suffered a tournament-opening loss, as the Cougars failed to reach at least the semifinals for the first time as a WCC member.

It will be called an upset because of seeding, but the Toreros used the same strategy that helped them prevail 70-69 in San Diego and 66-60 in Provo. They relentlessly crashed the offensive glass and used their superior size, physicality and athleticism to eke out the victory and move on to Monday’s semifinals.

“We just bring so much intensity and effort when we play BYU, and we match up well against them,” said San Diego’s Maya Hood, who made the game-sealing shot with 24 seconds left to push USD’s lead to 58-53.

“That kid is tough. It’s her will to win [that gives USD an edge],” Judkins said of Hood, who had 13 points and seven rebounds. “She made some big plays tonight.”

The Cougars trailed 48-40 entering the fourth quarter, but caused some havoc with their full-court pressure — USD committed 23 turnovers — and put together a comeback for the third-straight time against USD.

Brenna Chase hit a jumper to trim the deficit to 56-53 with just over a minute left, and got a good look at a 3-pointer from the corner after the Cougars forced a turnover. But Chase’s trey that would have tied it was just off the mark with 52 seconds left. Paisley Johnson came up with what was only BYU’s third offensive rebound of the game, but her heavily defended shot wasn’t close and USD’s Hood, a sixth-year senior, hit the dagger moments later.

“It was a good look, and I am going to take that shot when I’m open. It felt like it was going in,” said Chase, who combined with Malia Nawahine to score 32 points.

“If Brenna hits that shot, we would probably be sitting in a different position right now,” Judkins said. “I am proud that she took it. A lot of people wouldn’t take it.”

The Cougars outshot the Toreros 46 percent to 41 percent, but had just one point after an offensive rebound and committed 21 turnovers themselves in a mistake-filled, defensive struggle. San Diego won the rebounding battle 37-19.

“We just didn’t make some plays we needed to make when we made that run,” Judkins said.

The Cougars also missed 10 of 22 free throws, including some costly ones in the fourth quarter.

“Just the same story as the two other games that we lost to them,” Nawahine said. “They just got the loose balls and made the most of their chances.”

Senior Cassie Devashrayee was held to 12, seven below her average, after suffering a lower leg injury in the first quarter. She gamely returned and scored two quick baskets at the end of the first quarter, but was clearly not 100 percent and suffered another hard shot in the second half after drawing an offensive foul.

“She’s one of the best I’ve had at BYU for a long, long time,” Judkins said of the 2017 WCC Player of the Year. “She will be truly missed.”

San Diego 61, BYU 56<br>• The sixth-seeded Toreros get 22 second-chance points, to third-seeded BYU’s one, and spring the upset in a WCC women’s basketball quarterfinal game.<br>• The Cougars commit 21 turnovers and are out-rebounded 37-19 in the loss.<br>• Malia Nawahine and Brenna Chase score 16 points apiece for BYU, but leading scorer Cassie Devashrayee is injured in the first quarter and is held to 12.