LAS VEGAS – Gonzaga and BYU will meet for the third time this season and the second time in nine days – and the Cougars will be a bit healthier this time.
Third-seeded BYU (25-7) outlasted San Diego 73-68 late Friday night at Orleans Arena to earn a spot in the West Coast Conference men’s basketball tournament semifinals Saturday against the second-seeded Bulldogs (24-5). No. 1 Saint Mary’s faces No. 5 San Francisco at 6 p.m. with GU-BYU tipping about 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first game.
Senior forward Noah Hartsock, slowed by a knee injury he suffered on Feb. 18, played just seven minutes in Gonzaga’s 74-63 win on Feb. 23. He came off the bench to score a team-high 19 points in 27 minutes against the sixth-seeded Toreros, who gave BYU everything it could handle.
“Obviously missing two weeks he was a tad rusty, but he knocked some of that rust off and I’m sure it’ll help him (Saturday),” Gonzaga assistant coach Ray Giacoletti said.
Gonzaga split with BYU in the regular season with the Cougars rolling to an 83-73 win in Provo. BYU also bounced GU from last year’s NCAA Tournament with an 89-67 victory.
Hartsock didn’t start either half, but he supplied offense soon after entering and helped the Cougars break from a 34-34 halftime tie. Hartsock hit back-to-back baskets as BYU stretched its lead to 68-59 with 6 minutes remaining.
Junior forward Brandon Davies added 16 points, but missed 3 of 4 free throws in the last couple minutes and USD nearly caught the Cougars at the finish line. The Toreros had two chances to tie on Dennis Kramer’s 3-point attempts in the final 45 seconds, but both were off target. Hartsock made two free throws with 6.5 seconds left to seal the victory.
“We can’t turn the ball over (against BYU) and give them opportunities for run-outs,” Giacoletti said. “We have to keep them off the offensive boards. (Charles) Abouo had two big offensive rebounds late that were back-breakers. And we have to make their posts catch the ball off the blocks. They catch it deep, you have trouble.”
San Francisco 67, Loyola Marymount 60: Michael Williams scored 19 points, Cody Doolin scored 16 and the Dons (20-12) defeated the Lions (19-12) to reach the semifinals.
BYU 73, San Diego 68: Noah Hartsock and Brandon Davies combined for 27 second-half points to lead BYU to the win.
Hartsock finished with 19 points, including a pair of free throws with 6.5 seconds to play.