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Day after BYU

No reports of Mark Few doing handstands in the locker room, his post-game celebration following last year’s NCAA win over Iowa, but the 17-year Gonzaga coach seemed genuinely ecstatic and exhausted after his team hung on for a 71-68 victory over BYU on Saturday night.

While BYU has won on its last two trips to the McCarthey Athletic Center, Gonzaga has won three of the last four in the Marriott Center.

Here’s my game story, and coverage from Salt Lake Tribune here and here.

Read on for more in my day-after BYU post.

--After falling to BYU in January, Josh Perkins said he had no doubt the Zags would still win the conference title. After falling to Saint Mary’s last Saturday, Eric McClellan told the crowd during his Senior Night speech that the Zags “promised you a league championship and that’s what we’re going to give you.”

GU backed up those bold words with Saturday’s win, earning a co-championship with Saint Mary’s. The Gaels swept the Zags in the regular season to land the top seed in the WCC tournament and they’ll face the winner of Friday’s No. 8 LMU-No. 9 San Diego game. No. 2 Gonzaga takes on No. 7 Portland with a tip time scheduled at 9 p.m. (probably be later since SMC plays at 7).

“I heard it a couple times (from the fans),” Perkins said, “but I said it and I’m glad the guys got together and backed it up.”

“I didn’t hear anything,” McClellan said. “I did make a promise and I’m just glad to be able to fulfill and achieve it. It wasn’t pretty but a win is a win. We just stayed together and trusted each other. As cliché and corny as that sounds, we’ve been here many times before and we just wanted to stick to our play and stay together.”

--When BYU gets rolling inside the jam-packed Marriott Center the noise is jet-engine loud and the atmosphere electric. I recall Elias Harris telling me after a 2013 win: “I couldn’t hear my own words.”

Kyle Wiltjer has played in many of the hallowed arenas in college basketball and the Marriott Center compares favorably.

“It’s one of the loudest arenas I’ve been in,” Wiltjer said. “I remember playing at Indiana, it was very similar with the students on one side. It makes it difficult to shoot so many people on that side. It was an intense, physical game that wasn’t perfect but we did enough to win.”

--As big as the win and a share of the conference was for the Zags, they probably still reside on the NCAA at-large bubble.

“There’s still some question marks out there,” Perkins said. “We still have to do our jobs in Vegas. It’s all up to us from here.”

Added Kyle Dranginis: “We definitely have a lot more we have to take care of but this is a big confidence booster going into the WCC tourney. We’re going to keep it rolling from here.”

--One of the biggest keys to the game was Gonzaga cutting its turnovers from 11 in the first half to 2 in the second half. BYU, which thrives in the open-court game, had 10 points off turnovers in the opening half, zero in the second.

Perkins didn’t have a turnover in 38 minutes.

“Perk managed the game great. It was at a pace we could handle and he took care of the ball,” Few said. “Our bigs started being stronger with the ball. They must have taken it from us 5-6 times in the first half. We talked about that at half, slowed a couple of guards down and made simple plays.”

Dranginis, who had four assists and one turnover, lauded Perkins and Melson.

“The first half was wild. We kind of got caught up in their pace of play, too many live-ball turnovers,” Dranginis said. “We did a great job in the second half, especially Josh. I’m really proud of his effort in the second half. A freshman out there playing in that atmosphere, he played big-time and so did Silas.”

STATS OF NOTE

--GU shot 58 percent in the first half, 37 in the second to finish at 47.

--BYU’s starting guards of Chase Fischer, Kyle Collinsworth and Nick Emery scored 44 points, but made just 14 of 44 shots. They were 8 of 21 on 3s.

QUOTEBOOK

Wiltjer: “We did a good job making their 3s tough. They’re a great shooting team.”

Melson: “It was really fun, big crowd, stadium huge, filled, loud. I loved it.”

Sabonis: “The refs let us play very physical. It was a very tough game, more tough mentally because we had a lot on the line. We had to win this.”

Wiltjer on his defense, which drew praise from Few: “I think I did a good job helping because their bigs weren’t shooters, and I was better on ball-screen coverage.”

Dranginis: “Domas really got us going. Just his raw emotion, it really helps us kind of stay together. He made a series of big plays to help us get that (late) lead.”

 



Jim Meehan
Jim Meehan joined The Spokesman-Review in 1990. Jim is currently a reporter for the Sports Desk and covers Gonzaga University basketball, Spokane Empire football, college volleyball and golf.

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