No. 11 BYU takes down No. 6 Rutgers for first upset of NCAA women's tournament

Cassandra Negley
·4-min read

The chalk didn't last long into the second day of the 2021 NCAA women's basketball tournament. No. 11 seed Brigham Young University earned the first upset of the tournament in the first session of Day 2 with a 69-66 win against No. 6 Rutgers in the Mercado Region.

All 16 higher-ranked teams won their games on Day 1 of the tournament. It was the first time since 2010 that happened.

BYU free throws seal win

Shaylee Gonzales was fouled on a corner 3-point attempt and swished all three free throws to give BYU its largest lead of the game, 65-61, with 31 seconds on the clock. They were the difference in a tight final few minutes that went down to the final possession.

Paisley Harding turned a nine-point deficit into a close contest for BYU. Her back-to-back 3-point plays turned a 54-45 Rutgers lead to 54-51 at the start of the fourth quarter. Two more free throws cut it to one.

BYU took its first lead at 55-54 on a Lauren Gustin layup with 4:35 remaining. It was the Cougars first lead since the first four minutes of the contest as Rutgers struggled with turnovers and offensive fouls. The Scarlet Knights went scoreless for more than five minutes between buckets by two-time All-American Arella Guirantes, who kept Rutgers within a point with jumpers on back-to-back possessions.

BYU's Tegan Graham and Guirantes traded 3-pointers ahead of the one-minute mark and BYU held the 62-61 lead. Gonzales' free throws boosted that lead to four.

Guirantes made a quick layup to cut into it and Gonzales made three more free throws down the stretch. Rutgers again cut it to two points on a 3 by Liz Martino and Paisley Harding closed it with a free throw to give BYU just enough breathing room.

Rutgers couldn't get a final shot off after a defensive rebound on the second missed free throw.

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Harding powers BYU with 28 points

Harding powered the Cougars (19-5) offense with 28 points on 8-for-17 shooting. She made four of nine 3-point attempts and made nine of her 10 free throw attempts.

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She added six rebounds, four assists and three steals in a performance that was too much for the Scarlet Knights in the first round. The team's nine total 3-pointers were the difference as Harding nearly equaled Rutgers there alone.

Gonzales added 17 points. Despite struggling from the floor she made 10 of 11 free throws, including ones down the stretch.

BYU trailed by two after the first quarter and by six at half. It was 50-43 in Rutgers favor heading into the fourth quarter.

Guirantes' Rutgers career ends in first round

Guirantes is a redshirt senior and finished her career with an early exit, but stellar performance. She scored a game-high 30 points on 10-for-18 shooting. It was also a tournament high for the tournament through the first day and 12 p.m. session of Day 2. She added six rebounds, three assists and three steals.

The 5-foot-11 guard bypassed the WNBA draft last season and has gone up on draft boards this year as one of the top scorers in the nation (20.8 PPG). The WNBA draft is April 15.

Diamond Johnson added 13 points and Tekia Mack added 11 points for Rutgers, which led by as many as 12 points.

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Rutgers came in as a potential upset contender for later rounds of the bracket. The Knights had a 72 percent chance of winning, per Her Hoop Stats. BYU moves on to play the winner of No. 3 Arizona vs. No. 14 Stony Brook.

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