LAS VEGAS (AP) — Yoeli Childs and BYU saved their best game of the season for the right time.
Childs scored a career-high 33 points and the Cougars shot 61 percent from the field to beat No. 22 Saint Mary’s 85-72 in Monday’s West Coast Conference Tournament semifinals.
“It was a real good win for us,” BYU coach Dave Rose said. “Tonight, they were on it. They shared the ball, made big shots, executed well. It was a well-played game on both sides.”
The Cougars (24-9) now face No. 7 and top-seeded Gonzaga (29-4) in the championship game Tuesday night as they go for their first WCC Tournament title.
“Our reward is Gonzaga,” Rose said. “We played them a week before and we look forward to it. We’ll start thinking about when we get back to the hotel.”
Childs was 13 of 18 from the field, including hitting all three 3-point attempts. He also had six rebounds.
“The ball was popping around for us (tonight),” Childs said. “We just gave each other energy. We had the mentality to win.”
Elijah Bryant added 25 points for the Cougars, going 8 of 13 from the field and making all eight free-throw attempts.
Jordan Ford led Saint Mary’s (28-5) with 27 points and six rebounds.
“The biggest problem was at the defensive end,” said Saint Mary’s coach Randy Bennett, whose team shot 50 percent from the field. “We usually hold them to 40-41 percent (from the field). We gave up 61. We gave them 10 points on hustle plays. When you play good teams at this stage of the season, you can’t give teams easy baskets.”
The Gaels’ Jock Landale, who fouled out with 21 seconds left, had 23 points but only four rebounds. Landale committed his third foul with 1:49 left before halftime and fourth with 8:39 left in the game.
“Every loss, I’ve been in foul trouble,” Landale said. “I’ve got to stop making silly plays.”
TJ Haws had 11 points, while Dalton Nixon had 10 points and six rebounds for the Cougars, who will be making their first tournament final appearance in three years. Gonzaga beat BYU twice in the regular season and has won five straight WCC Tournament titles.
NO SERIOUS LATE RUN
After the Cougars led 41-37 at intermission, they expanded their lead to 67-54 with 7:35 left. Saint Mary’s cut it to 71-65 with 3:24 left, but the Cougars’ hot shooting helped them pulled away in the final three minutes.
Calvin Hermanson had 12 points for Saint Mary’s.
BYU: The Cougars likely will have to win Tuesday in order to get an NCAA Tournament bid. … The Cougars reached the WCC final 2014 and 2015. Both Childs and Bryant each now have 13 20-plus point games. … This is the first time in 10 years the No. 1 and 2 seeds will not face off in the final game.
Saint Mary’s: This is the first time in three years the Gaels will not be in the WCC final as they struggled in Las Vegas, even having to rally from five points down to beat 10th-seeded Pepperdine (6-26) in the quarterfinals. … The Gaels are now 11-12 in WCC Tournament semifinal games. They had won five straight against the Cougars coming into Monday night.
BYU: The Cougars play in final against Gonzaga Tuesday night.
Saint Mary’s: The Gaels are expected to receive a NCAA Tournament bid.
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