You know the day-after drill.
Here's my game story, John Blanchette's column and Colin Mulvany's photos. Here's the Salt Lake Tribune gamer and a few national articles on how damaging Gonzaga's loss was in terms of NCAA seeding. GU probably needs to win the WCC Tournament to stay on the two line and hope for losses elsewhere (Wisconsin, Arizona, Kansas, etc.) to stay in the West Region.
Read on for my day-after BYU post.
--It’s an oft repeated phrase from players and coaches at this stage of the season: “We want to be playing our best basketball going into the postseason.”
It’s how seventh-seeded UConn, with eight losses, and No. 8 Kentucky, with 10 setbacks, reached the NCAA title game last season. They meshed when it mattered the most and made unlikely runs through the tournament.
Examining Gonzaga’s February stretch through Saturday’s regular-season finale, it’s clear the Zags aren’t playing their best basketball. Several concern spots have come up, including slow starts and lengthy stretches of sluggish offense and/or lenient defense.
In the last five games, Gonzaga ran into its four closest pursuers in the WCC (fourth-place Pepperdine, No. 3 Saint Mary’s, No. 5 San Diego and No. 2 BYU). Against Pepperdine in the MAC, the Zags started slowly and trailed most of the first half before breaking away with a 16-3 run. Against Pacific, GU’s defense struggled against a Tigers’ offense averaging in the low 60s in conference play. Against Saint Mary’s, the Zags slipped into a 17-point first-half hole before staging a huge comeback.
Against San Diego, the Zags broke slowly from the gate again and were losing the glass by as many as six in the first half before pulling away in the second half. Against BYU, the Cougars were the aggressors from the start and beat the Zags on the offensive glass.
“We need to get back to being the aggressor,” coach Mark Few said. “This time of year the most aggressive team is going to win.”
And that was BYU last night. The Cougars played like a team desperate for a signature win. The Zags didn’t match BYU’s energy or intensity, evident by how they sputtered at the outset of both halves. The Cougars retrieved most of the 50-50 balls.
“The mentality hasn’t quite been, ‘boom , stick it to them,’ ” said Few of the slow starts, “but also teams have junked it up a little bit and clogged our offense and that’s affected us.”
--BYU’s four-guard lineup gave the Zags fits. Gonzaga had issues matching with the Cougars’ size, specifically 6-6 point guard Kyle Collinsworth, and quickness. BYU created offense off the dribble, on the boards, in transition and with the 3-ball (7 of 16, 6 of 11 in the first half).
“That was a lot different for us,” senior guard Kevin Pangos said. “We haven’t really faced that much this season. We have to learn from that because you never know what you might face in March.”
The Cougars’ deep guard-line is impressive: Collinsworth, who hit several key baskets, including putbacks with 6 minutes and 17 seconds remaining and a three-point play with 50 ticks left; 6-5 Tyler Haws, the school’s all-time leading scorer who struggled last night; Chase Fischer, who deposited three 3s; Skyler Halford, a thorn in GU’s side all game with 14 points and a pair of 3s; Anson Winder, who had 17 points in the first meeting; and Frank Bartley IV, who had three points, two assists and one of the team’s six blocked shots.
--The Zags’ normally potent offense was out of sorts, save for roughly the last 14 minutes of the first half. BYU’s rotation of bigs did a solid job defending GU’s posts and high-low attack.
Domantas Sabonis was the Zags’ most effective interior option, finishing with a hard-earned 12 points. Przemek Karnowski scored eight points but sat out virtually all of the final 12 minutes as the Zags went primarily with a four-guard lineup.
Pangos and Kyle Wiltjer, deadly on pick-and-pops most of the season, had rough nights. Wiltjer didn’t play much in the final 9 minutes but he had two wide-open pick-and-pop looks from 3, airballing the first with 10:13 left and missing badly on another with 4:03 left.
“They were playing off those two guys (Shem and Sabonis) and then they were just fronting, so when they front usually we’re trained to throw the high-low,” said Wiltjer, who had nine points in the two-game homestand. “We just didn’t do a good job moving the ball. We were kind of stagnant and staring at the big guys.”
Pangos was 0 of 7 in the second half; Wiltjer 0 of 5. GU began running its offense through Byron Wesley, who delivered 17 points, and Sabonis, who was 4 of 6 from the field but just 4 of 8 at the FT line (including a costly lane violation by Kyle Dranginis with 9:21 left).
“They did a good job in first half of making us take tough shots,” Wesley said. “We weren’t really moving the ball the way we’d like. We dug ourselves a hole and it was a little too deep to get out of.”
--It was Senior Night for Pangos, Wesley and Gary Bell Jr. Pangos was 3 of 12 from the field. He scored eight points, had five assists and four steals. Bell made 1 of 4 shots. He scored three points, had two assists and two steals. Wesley had 17 points and nine boards, both team highs.
Prior to the game, they received standing ovations as they were introduced by the P.A. announcer and walked down student section aisles to meet their respective family members on the court.
“I didn’t think so,” said Pangos, when asked if Senior Night festivities had any impact on his play. “It didn’t bother me. Once the ball goes up, you don’t think about any of that.”
Following the tough loss, Few and each of the seniors briefly addressed the crowd, many of whom had already filtered out of the building.
“It was tough (addressing the crowd), just because you’re not really celebrating anything after that,” Pangos said. “That’s just how it is.”
STATS OF NOTE
--BYU’s Tyler Haws, an 89-percent FT shooter, was just 4 of 8. He missed two with 6.6 seconds left and BYU leading by 3.
--From ESPN stats dept.: Gonzaga never led vs. BYU, the first time that’s happened at home for the Zags since Feb. 12, 2007 (a span of 124 games).
--Streaks snapped: school-record 22-game winning streak, 22-game WCC winning streak, nation’s-best 41-game home winning streak, 36-game WCC home winning streak, .
Wesley: “Clearly nobody’s happy with the outcome but looking at bigger picture I think we needed that to humble everybody and to make sure everyone is locked in for the (WCC) tournament.”
Few, on the end of numerous streaks: “That’s for you guys (in the media). Not once did we talk about it.”
Wiltjer: “Just losing, anytime you lose it’s not a good feeling, that’s basically what it comes down. All that other stuff (streaks, unbeaten WCC season, etc.) is nice, but losing isn’t a fun feeling or seeing them having the satisfaction of beating us on our floor.”