Proctor leads USF to 70-68 win over BYU in WCC title game

LAS VEGAS (AP) San Francisco fell into a huge hole, looking as if it was going to blown out of the game and its chance to end a long NCAA Tournament drought.

Like they have all season, the Dons dug down and fought back, getting themselves back into the game and, eventually, into the bracket.

Taylor Proctor scored 27 points, Zhane Dikes added 21 and San Francisco earned its first trip to the NCAA Tournament in 19 years with a 70-68 victory over BYU in the West Coast Conference title game Tuesday.

''We get down to the nitty gritty on every play,'' Dikes said. ''I would definitely describe us as a relentless team.''

Top-seeded BYU (26-6) jumped out to a big early lead in the rematch of last year's title game, but the sixth-seeded Dons settled down after a shaky start to make it close heading into the fourth quarter.

Dikes hit two free throws with 14 seconds left to put San Francisco (21-11) up 69-68 and Proctor, who had 10 rebounds, hit 1 of 2 with 5.9 seconds left to give BYU one last shot.

The Cougars never got it off, with Dikes stripping Kalani Purcell on the final play, giving the Dons their first WCC title since 1997.

''I don't think anyone is surprised by this at all because it's what we've been working for,'' USF coach Jennifer Azzi said.

WCC player of the year Lexi Eaton Rydalch, scored 11 points in the first quarter, but had to work much harder the rest of the game. She finished with 23 points on 7-of-21 shooting before fouling out with 49 seconds left.

Purcell had 17 points and 16 rebounds for BYU, which should still get into the NCAA Tournament despite falling short of repeating as WCC champions.

''It's tough, we'll probably hang on it a little bit, but the season's not over,'' Purcell said. ''

BYU won the two regular-season meetings: easily in San Francisco and on an improbable shot in Salt Lake City, where Rydalch banked in a midcourt 3-pointer for the 65-62 victory.

The Cougars went on to win the WCC regular-season title and opened with lopsided wins over Pepperdine and Santa Clara to reach the championship game for the third straight season.

The Dons closed out the regular season with four wins in four games before opening the WCC tournament with wins over San Diego and Saint Mary's.

Rydalch got the Cougars off to a quick start, scoring the game's first eight points to pass Loyola Marymount's Hank Gathers for most career points in WCC history.

BYU continued to pour it on from there, opening the game on a 15-2 run to build a 12-point lead after the first quarter.

The Dons were much more efficient offensively and did a better job of containing Rydalch in the second quarter, whittling the lead down to 42-37 by halftime.

San Francisco managed to keep the Cougars in reach through the third quarter, entering the fourth trailing 58-54 after BYU's Cassie Broadhead hit a 3-pointer from the corner at the buzzer.

The Dons tied it early in the fourth quarter after Proctor hit a 3-pointer and scored inside, setting up the close finish that eventually went San Francisco's way.

''Not everyone goes perfect all the time,'' BYU coach Jeff Judkins said. ''We won the conference title, we had a good week, but in the last couple minutes we didn't execute like we normally do.''

PASSING GATHERS

Rydalch had yet to be born when Gathers was lighting up scoreboards at Loyola Marymount, but she understands the impact of passing the late legend as WCC's career scoring leader.

''It means a lot because I know Hank Gathers is a great legend,'' she said. ''He's a stud and to be in that some conversation is really a compliment.''

TIP-INS

BYU: The Cougars were in the WCC title game for the fourth time since 2012. ... Makenzi Pulsipher had 14 points.

SAN FRANCISCO: The Dons had a 38-18 advantage in the paint.

WHAT'S NEXT

BYU will likely play in the NCAA Tournament.

San Francisco earns the WCC's automatic berth.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.