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No. 20 BYU completely dominates paint, picks up key resume win over Washington State

Led by Paisley Harding, The BYU Cougars nearly held the Washington State Cougars scoreless on 2-point baskets and got back on the winning track.

NCAA Women’s Basketball-WCC Tournament-BYU vs Gonzaga
Paisley Harding (with ball)
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The No. 20 BYU Cougars were able to bounce back from their overtime loss to the Oklahoma Sooners by defeating the Washington State Cougars 71-53 Saturday at the Marriott Center in Provo, Utah.

Washington State made 13 treys, but just three 2-point baskets (1-of-10 on layups) and was outscored in the paint 40-2.

With the victory, BYU (9-1, 0-0 WCC) beat another team that was featured in ESPN’s Dec. 17th Bracketology. Its last four wins, which have come in its last five games, have all been against teams that are at least on the bubble. Wins over the West Virginia Mountaineers and now Washington State have been over current 10-seeds. Oklahoma is a current 7-seed.

On Saturday, Paisley Harding led the victorious Cougars (as opposed to defeated Cougars) with 20 points to go along with five rebounds. Tegan Graham added 15 points, five assists, four boards and two blocks, while leading scorer Shaylee Gonzales was good for 13 points, six boards, three helpers and two rejections. Lauren Gustin failed to reach double-figure scoring with seven points, but hauled in a game-high 13 rebounds for the winners.

BYU won the first by eight and the fourth by 11. Both the second and third were close with Washington State winning those frames by a combined point. So the way BYU came out and the way it finished is what really won it this game.

And the way it finished mattered because even though it started the final frame up seven, it was not up by seven or more all the way through en route to the 18-point victory. Washington State cut it to four on a Johanna Teder three 27 seconds into the fourth and then cut it to one on a Charlisse Leger-Walker triple 24 seconds later. BYU had to build the lead back up after that and was able to lead by double digits for the final 4:34.

Leger-Walker, the headliner of this game for Washington State, finished with a game-high 21 points in defeat. She was 6-of-10 from downtown and added four assists. All of her made field goals came from beyond the arc as she was 0-of-3 from 2-point range. Teammate Ula Motuga notched a 12-point, 10-rebound double-double.

Washington State (8-2, 0-0 Pac-12) shot 41.9 percent from distance compared to BYU’s 29.4 percent effort, but lost the field goal percentage battle 45.2 percent to 26.7 percent. BYU won the rebounding battle 50-35.