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Las Vegas • BYU exited the West Coast Conference women's basketball tournament Monday, wishing junior guard Cassie Broadhead could have stayed on the court longer in the semifinals.
The crazy thing is, Saint Mary's thrived when Broadhead was playing. The Gaels outscored BYU by 16 points in the 32 minutes when the WCC Player of the Year was in the game, advancing to the finals with a 59-49 victory at Orleans Arena.
Broadhead was held to two points, by far a season low, on 1-of-9 shooting. The most telling statistic was Broadhead's getting only four shot attempts until the final five minutes, when she and the Cougars became desperate.
"Personally, I thought she played very tentative," said BYU coach Jeff Judkins. "She wasn't very aggressive with the ball, offensively or defensively. I don't know the reason for that."
Broadhead left the locker room before her designated teammates finished the postgame news conference.
So ended BYU's brief tournament run that began with a 75-66 overtime defeat of San Diego in Friday's quarterfinals, as Broadhead scored 22 points including a tying 3-pointer with 11 seconds left in regulation. Broadhead went 8 of 29 from the field in two games in Las Vegas.
The junior guard was averaging 18.4 points, having totaled 40 points in BYU's regular-season split with Saint Mary's. Her previous season low was seven points vs. Tulsa in November.
SMC coach Paul Thomas said the Gaels' goal in Round 3 was to make sure Broadhead couldn't "take the night off defensively."
The strategy worked to some degree, as Broadhead recorded her third foul midway through the second quarter and picked up an offensive foul in the third period. The bigger issue was how some combination of SMC's defense and BYU's stagnant offense kept Broadhead from getting involved on that end of the court.
"We stood around a little bit too much on offense," said BYU guard Makenzi Pulsipher.
Judkins said too many players tried to force shots after driving into the heart of the Gaels' defense. The irony was the Cougars closed the first half with an 11-4 run with Broadhead on the bench. Kalani Purcell's late 3-pointer gave BYU a 27-20 lead.
The Cougars also started the third quarter nicely, building a nine-point lead, but Saint Mary's responded with a 17-2 run. And with Broadhead back in the lineup, the Gaels opened the fourth quarter with a 14-1 spurt after BYU had come within two points to close the third period.