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The 11-seed BYU Cougars pulled off the first upset of the 2021 NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament with a 69-66 win over the 6-seed Rutgers Scarlet Knights. The Cougars will face Arizona on Wednesday after the Wildcats soundly defeated Stony Brook 79-44.
After suffering a devastating loss to Gonzaga with under a second remaining in the West Coast Conference Championship earlier this month, the Cougars were unsure if they were going to secure a bid to this year’s NCAA tournament. Uncertainty turned to jubilation on Selection Monday when the team took to social media to share their reaction — led senior leader Paisley Johnson Harding — to receiving an at-large bid to the tournament.
Propelled by a 12-0 run in the fourth quarter, this time the Cougars handed out the heartbreak to the 6-seed in the waning moments of the game. Paisley Johnson Harding led the way for BYU with 28 points and five rebounds and Shaylee Gonzales chipped in 17 points, six rebounds, and four assists to overcome a second-half deficit and complete the upset.
Rutgers was led by senior star Arella Guirantes, whose stat line included 30 points, six rebounds, and three assists. While this is most certainly not the way Guirantes wanted her college career to end, her future looks bright. Widely-considered a top-ten draft pick in the upcoming WNBA draft, Guirantes received high praises from legendary Hall of Fame coach C. Vivian Stringer.
“She’s one of the greatest players that I’ve coached and I’ve been fortunate enough to coach a lot of great players, and certainly she is among the very best. Her leadership, notwithstanding, is amazing and the attitude and willingness to win is second to none,” said Coach Stringer.
Guirantes, a fifth-year senior who started her career at Texas Tech, is projected in ESPN's WNBA mock draft as a number six pick, a pick currently held by the New York Liberty. Speaking about her legacy at Rutgers, Guirantes shared a bit about her history with the Liberty, perhaps hinting that we may be seeing her in Brooklyn this summer.
“Rutgers is so, so, so special to me. I didn’t realize it as a young lady coming out of high school, but honestly, every road led to Rutgers and I was here for a reason…My mom played with Sue Wicks. I grew up going to almost every Liberty game watching Cappie [Pondexter] play,” Guirantes said, “I’m just so happy I got to finish my career here playing for Coach Stringer.”