Gonzaga has played better – much better – but even without its ‘A’ game (B-minus perhaps?), it still had enough to defeat BYU 70-65 on Thursday.
Read on for my day-after post.
--BYU caused some of GU’s sluggish play offensively with a zone that clogged the paint. The Bulldogs hoisted a season-high 30 3-point attempts, making just 6. The Bulldogs haven’t had much success shooting in the spacious Marriott Center the last two years. They shot 41 percent here last season, including 3 of 19 on 3s.
Kelly Olynyk had most of his success early, before the Cougars began devoting more attention to the 7-footer at the high post. Still, when the game was on the line in the closing minutes, GU was able to find Elias Harris on the low block for a bucket and two free throws (he made one) and Olynyk, who made a clutch 10-footer after catching a pass near the elbow.
“That was part of the plan at the time,” said Harris, who finished with 11 points, nine rebounds and four assists. “We tried to get the ball inside, tried to get to put foul pressure on them and get to the free-throw line.
“Part of it is our experience. We have an older team than in the past and we’ve been in tough places.”
Said coach Mark Few: “Their zone was really content to really take away Kelly at the high post. We usually attack inside out. Those were good shots. For Kevin to go 1 of 12 (on 3-pointers), I don’t think I’ve seen him go 1 of 12 in three months. And they were all good looks, same with Drew Barham (who went 0 of 3).”
--Pangos tweeted after the game that it was “one of those nights.” The sophomore guard had no luck from long distance, other than a 3 with 14:30 left that came following Mike Hart’s offensive rebound.
“Some of them felt good, not all of them, I’m not going to lie, but they were open looks,” Pangos said. “Everyone kept telling me to keep shooting. I had to hit some to try to try to get their guys to respect me. They were really packing it in on the bigs. If I had to do it over again, I’d shoot the same shots.”
Gary Bell Jr. made 4 of 8 3s and redshirt freshman Kyle Dranginis hit a big 3 to boost GU’s lead to 54-43 near the midpoint of the second half.
“We have each other’s backs,” Olynyk said. “We’re so versatile and the production is so spread out, Kevin had a bad night but the next guy can give him a lift. That’s what makes a really great team, when you can’t key in on one guy.”
Despite Pangos suffering through a miserable shooting night and the Zags making a season-low 41.5 percent as a team, the Bulldogs still managed 70 points.
--Afterward, Few and GU players faced numerous questions about a potential No. 1 ranking and how much it has been on their minds.
Few: “They’re not really focused on it. We have Senior Night on Saturday with some special seniors. I told them they have a chance to go undefeated in league and no matter what happens, when they’re my age they can come back and nobody can do better than that.”
Pangos: “That’s not our first concern. You have to take care of things in conference first. Down the road, we can look at that.”
--The Bulldogs’ improving defense played a key role in the outcome. The Cougars made only 36.5 percent from the field and was held to 65 points, well below their 77.3 scoring average (17thnationally). BYU was limited to 63 points in the first meeting in Spokane.
Tyler Haws rebounded from his 1-point performance in Spokane with 19 points. He made 8 of 18 shots. Brandon Davies, who was in early foul trouble, hit 4 of 11 shots and scored 12 points.
Brock Zylstra (3 of 5 3s) and Craig Cusick (2 of 4 3s, 4 of 6 FTs) combined for 20 points.
“I thought we played good defensively pretty much all night,” Few said. “They hit some big, tough shots over hands, including some 3s that were very difficult. In the first half we didn’t do a great job rebounding, but they were playing with so much energy and emotion. We did a better job with that in the second half."
STATS OF NOTE
--GU’s 41.5 percentage from the field was its lowest of the season. The previous low was 43.4 vs. San Diego.
--After David Stockton’s determined driving layup with 7:30 left, Gonzaga didn’t have a field goal the rest of the first half. The Zags scored their last 10 points at the free-throw line.
--Stockton was just 1 of 5 from the field, but he had four rebounds, four assists and one steal.
--Attendance was 19,731, not quite a sellout. Following last season, BYU moved its students to a section behind one of the baskets and installed theater-style seats where the students used to sit. That dropped capacity from 22,000 to 20,900, but the Marriott Center is still one of the largest campus venues in the country.
--Harris is sporting seven stitches on his nose after taking a stray elbow at Monday’s practice.
--BYU is 6-6 in its last 12 games.
--BYU’s 65 points is the most against GU since Saint Mary’s had 78 on Jan. 10.
--Both teams struggled at the FT line. GU was 20 of 34, just 8 of 16 in the second half and had a couple of costly misses in the final minutes. BYU was 13 of 22, 5 of 11 in the first half.
--Other than Bell’s 4 of 8, the rest of the Zags were 2 of 22 beyond the 3-point arc.
Harris, on GU’s defense: “We’re a team defense. Nothing specific, we just guard as a unit, with guards and bigs.”
Few: “I knew we were going to have to work. I knew it was going to be incredible environment and I knew BYU was going to give us everything we could handle. One thing they do under (coach) Dave (Rose) is they play unbelievably hard. They not only did that, but they stepped up and hit big shots.”
Rose: “It was a physical battle, but both teams competed. Our guys got us in a position where we could have won the game. A missed rebound here and a couple of missed shots; it could have been a different story.”
Few: “Our defense has been great this last month.”
Rose on GU: “You have to give these guys credit. They came in here and did what they had to do to win. They are a well-coached team. They are talented and deep.”
Few: “This game was going to be hard whether we were ranked 10th or 12th or 20h. I knew that when I looked at the schedule.”