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Las Vegas • Four for four.
That's been the BYU women's basketball team's goal all season, as four seniors Kalani Purcell, Makenzi Pulsipher, Kristine Nielson and Micaelee Orton try to lead the Cougars to a fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
That's never been done in Provo, and the streak is in serious jeopardy, Nielson, Pulsipher and coach Jeff Judkins acknowledged Tuesday. The Cougars (19-10) will have to win the West Coast Conference Tournament and get the league's automatic bid if they hope to advance to the Big Dance.
The Cougars open the tournament Friday in a quarterfinal against San Diego, which beat Portland in the first round.
"We definitely have the mindset going in to the WCC Tournament that it is do or die," said Nielson. "We have to win it all or the NCAA Tournament is not going to happen for us."
The Cougars, riding high after beating Gonzaga 71-63 last Saturday at the Marriott Center, might have to win a game or two just to make the Women's NIT. They've been to either the NCAA Tournament or the WNIT every year since 2010.
"I don't expect anything less" than a tournament championship, said Pulsipher. "It is not an, 'I hope.' It is an, 'I know we can.' Especially being a senior and going three of my four years so far, to go again would be the ultimate goal. Once you get a taste of what that's like, to know that feeling of having that accomplishment, it is hard to be fine with anything else."
There's also unfinished business for the Cougars at the Orleans. They were the No. 1 seed but got upset by San Francisco in the championship game last year. They still made the NCAA Tournament as a No. 7 seed before falling 78-69 to No. 10 Missouri in Austin, Texas.
"I think we have the mindset that every team is a good team," Pulsipher said. "You can't look at them as anything less. Every team is great, but it is a fun time of the season. This is what we worked for, what we put in all that time over the summer and the preseason for. So it is fun to kind of be that much closer to the tournament and the Big Dance."
A slow start in which they lost to all five of the Power 5 teams on their nonconference schedule Georgia, Oklahoma, Oregon State, Utah and Washington and losses at Santa Clara, San Francisco and Loyola Marymount put the Cougars on the wrong side of the NCAA Tournament bubble. Highlights have been the outstanding play of the seniors and the rise of WCC Player of the Year Cassie Broadhead, a junior.
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No. 2 BYU vs. No. 7 San Diego
P At Orleans Arena, Las Vegas
What • Women's WCC Tournament quarterfinal
When • 3 p.m. MST
TV • BYUtv