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BYU’s NCAA Run Comes To An End After Late Comeback By Arizona Wildcats

BYU guard Shaylee Gonzales defended against the Arizona Wildcats in the second round of the 2021 Women's NCAA Tournament. (BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)

PROVO, Utah – BYU women’s basketball had five minutes between them and an appearance in their third-ever Sweet 16. The Arizona Wildcats, Pac-12 runner-up, had other ideas.

BYU lost to Arizona 52-46 in a hard-fought, defensive battle in the second round of the Mercado Region in the 2021 Women’s NCAA Tournament.

BYU/Arizona: Wildcats close the game out on a 13-3 run

The Cougars were up by four with 5:03 remaining in the game, but then the Wildcats made all of the plays late to avoid the upset. Arizona closed the game on a 13-3 run ending 11-seed BYU’s season with a 19-6 record.

BYU star Shaylee Gonzales ended the game with a team-high 16 points on 5-13 shooting from the field to go along with nine rebounds. Her 16 points pushed her past the 1,000-point club for her BYU career.

Coach Jeff Judkins said going into the second-round matchup that Arizona would be the toughest team BYU has faced defensively this season, and the Wildcats lived up to that prediction from the 20-year head coach.

BYU struggled to find its offense

All-WCC first-team guard Paisley Harding had 28 points in the win over Rutgers on Monday. She was limited to just two points against an Arizona backcourt that featured Pac-12 Player of the Year and Co-Defensive Player of the Year in Aari McDonald.

McDonald put the exclamation mark on the Wildcats victory with a steal and a layup to secure the win late in the fourth quarter. The Pac-12’s top player finished with a game-high 17 points, 11 rebounds, and four steals.

With 19 seconds remaining, BYU was down by three and looking to get a defensive stop for a chance to tie up the game on the offensive end. Instead of riding out the defensive possession, BYU opted to foul, resulting in the Cougars first team foul and turning off the shot clock.

That decision forced BYU to foul four more times before Arizona made it a two-possession game from the free-throw line.

Arizona now moves on to the Sweet 16 to face Texas A&M. BYU’s season now concludes heartbreakingly.  For a moment, BYU had their third Sweet 16 appearance all-time in front of them but couldn’t finish the job.

This was only the second time this season that BYU lost a game after leading at the half. The other was in the WCC Tournament Championship Game to Gonzaga earlier this month.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m., KSL Newsradio). Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper and the KSL Sports app.

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