The Gonzaga Bulldogs' press conference after their 62-43 win over the BYU Cougars in the WCC semifinals. Gonzaga coach Kelly Graves called Haley Steed one of the top three or four point guards in the country.
While BYU was struggling to beat the Portland Pilots in their final game of the season, their official Twitter account sent this message out:
Miss watching Cougars team with the pride to destroy it's opponents when having the lead.Last few games seems to be way too complacent!— BYU WBB (@BYU_WBBALL) March 2, 2013
After winning the 2012 WCC Tournament to secure an automatic bid in the NCAA Tournament, this year they'll be staying home during the Big Dance.
And their final days of WCC play really summed up their season: they lost by 14 to Gonzaga at home in a game that could've earned them the third seed - avoiding Gonzaga until the championship game and drawing a San Diego team that they had beaten twice - before losing to LMU on the road in the final week of conference play. In that game against Portland, they blew a 14-point first half lead to find themselves down by four with just under 16 minutes left in the game to a team with five conference wins.
And again, they lost to the San Francisco Dons, which effectively removed them from the NCAA Tournament bubble in late-January.
It was that kind of year for the Cougars, injuries notwithstanding. And the 62-43 loss to the Gonzaga Bulldogs was a sad way to see Haley Steed finish her WCC career.
Gonzaga's pressure defense forced the seventh-year senior into just three assists to go along with three turnovers in addition to 3-for-11 shooting. With their point guard unable to get anything going in any phase of the game and their wings generally unable to create on their own, BYU's offense stagnated and Gonzaga rolled to a big win.
Yet after the game, Bulldogs coach Kelly Graves mentioned that Steed is "arguably one of the three or four point guards in the country" and, in a roundabout way, Saturday's game proved that - Steed had to play nearly every minute of every game (that wasn't decided by more than 20 points) this season for BYU to be competitive and off games, as either a distributor or scorer, routinely cost BYU games.
Yet on a team that lost last year's leading scorer, Kristen Riley, to graduation and this year's leading scorer, Lexi Eaton, to injury eight games into the season, Steed still finished third in the nation in assists; that's quite a feat when you consider that BYU's entire offense revolved around her making plays as a distributor and scorer, averaging 10.3 points and 7.4 assists. And it's even more amazing that she did it so efficiently, with an outstanding pure point rating of 6.06, which is almost identical to last season's 6.12 rating.
Over the past two seasons, there might not have been a better pure passer in NCAA women's basketball - Steed's ability to put the ball on the mark from anywhere on the court at 5-foot-4 has been remarkable to watch.
The WNBA probably isn't in Steed's future - making the league as a 5-foot-4 point guard shooting 35.7% from the field is less than likely - but it's quite clear why she has been named a Nancy Lieberman Award finalist after the season she has had.
For more on Gonzaga's win and the WCC tournament on the whole, visit our storystream.