Back with my day-after post from Gonzaga’s come-from-ahead-loss to BYU last night – reminded me of Arizona in early December – at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
--Kyles all over the floor last night and all of them – GU’s Wiltjer and Dranginis and BYU’s Collinsworth and Davis – were key figures in the outcome.
Davis kept BYU close with Collinsworth on the bench in the first half with two fouls. Davis had 10 points, seven boards and three blocked shots as BYU, sans Collinsworth, cut a 24-14 deficit to 36-32 at the break. Davis also made Wiltjer spend energy on the defensive end, which added considerably to the senior forward’s workload that already consisted of carrying GU’s offense – all on an ailing foot that has bothered him since the closing seconds of the Santa Clara game. At times, those two took turns scoring against the other.
“He was one of the only guys that was delivering at that time,” coach Mark Few said of Wiltjer. “Again, he needs to maximize his touches and his possessions. It’s a pretty valiant effort for a guy that hasn’t really been able to practice the last two weeks. Pretty amazing what he’s been able to do practicing 20 minutes Wednesday and 20 minutes Tuesday.”
The Zags failed to take advantage of an opportunity to expand their double-digit first-half lead with Collinsworth sitting out. Few felt differently.
“When you play BYU, there’s going to be so many possessions and they’re so opportunistic that anything that happens in the first half … I don’t see that as being a huge, huge (factor),” Few said. “Again we built it up (the lead in the second half), Domas got in foul trouble. Those are two valuable guys to both squads (Sabonis and Collinsworth).”
--Gonzaga had no defensive answer for Collinsworth in the second half. Bryan Alberts started on the Cougar point guard, whose first half was stalled by foul trouble. In the second half, the 6-6 Collinsworth did pretty much whatever he wanted to do, often penetrating for buckets against the smaller Dranginis or drawing a second defender and dishing to an open teammate. He added a key 3-pointer with 3:42 remaining.
“We couldn’t really get stops,” Wiltjer said. “They have some tough players, Collinsworth is one of the best players in the nation, he showed it. We couldn’t really stop him. We gave up that crucial 3 (to Nick Emery), the guy hadn’t scored all game and hit the big 3. Kudos to him, but we have to do a better job defending.”
--Domantas Sabonis, Wiltjer’s frontcourt side-kick, never got untracked. He spent portions of both halves on the bench in foul trouble. His absence was felt at both ends of the court. He had just five points and six boards in 21 minutes.
“I think it was fine, like every other game, same game,” Sabonis said. “I don’t know ... couldn’t get my rhythm.”
Sabonis didn’t have many touches as he tried to post up against BYU’s sizable front line of 6-11 Nate Austin and 6-10 Corbin Kaufusi. Sabonis made a jumper early in the first half and a jump hook early in the second for his only field goals. He had just two free throw attempts.
“There was a lot of traffic in there,” Few said. “He does so many other things than (just score). You have to account for him on the glass, he’s far and away our best defensive rebounder and rim protector, but there was a lot of traffic in there.
“They were playing off some guys and we’ve been doing a good job of making guys pay for that but we didn’t do a really great job of that tonight.”
--As Few mentioned, Gonzaga’s guards have had a nice stretch lately of making opponents pay for concentrating defensively on Wiltjer and Sabonis. It didn’t happen Thursday as the five guards combined to go 6 of 25 from the field, 2 of 12 from 3. The fivesome scored 22 points and had 11 assists and eight turnovers.
Josh Perkins was responsible for the bulk of the production with 11 points, seven assists, six rebounds and three steals. He made his first shot – a 3-pointer on GU’s initial possession – but only 1 of his last 7 attempts.
--Most observers were expecting a shootout but both teams were sluggish offensively. BYU made 41.5 percent from the field, GU 36.8. Neither team had much luck from 3 (BYU 3 of 17, GU 6 of 20). They combined for only 22 assists on 48 made baskets.
“You can’t really explain it,” BYU coach Dave Rose said. “I think they average 90 points a game (in WCC), we average 85 (on the season) and most of the game is being played to end up in the 50s. But two good teams going after each other and I’m just happy for our guys.”
STATS OF NOTE
--Wiltjer has scored 35, 32 and 30 points in the last three games. He’s averaging 28.6 points over the last five contests.
--GU’s 36.8 percent shooting was a season low (previous 40 percent vs. Montana).
--BYU committed just two second-half turnovers, one when Collinsworth was called for traveling after collecting a rebound in traffic in the closing seconds.
--The Zags scored just five points in the final 5:45 after Wiltjer’s step-back jumper gave them a 63-56 lead.
--Reserve center Ryan Edwards equaled his season highs with 18 minutes and six points. Edwards was the only Zag to make at least 50 percent of his shots (2 of 3). He also had three boards, two blocks, one steal and no turnovers.
--All three of BYU’s 3-pointers came in the final 8 minutes.
--Bryan Alberts has scored one point in the last four games, going 0 of 5 (0 of 4 from 3).
Perkins: “It’s times like this where we come together. We’re all brothers and we’re going to figure it out. It’s a long journey. We’re still going to win the league, I’m positive of that.”
Wiltjer, on Sabonis being in foul trouble: “It’s always tough when he’s in foul trouble, he’s done such a good job of staying out of foul trouble. He got a couple tough calls there and there’s nothing you can do about it. We competed; it just hurts losing a close one like that.”
Few: “I think we got the ball in right guy’s hands, (Wiltjer) saw an avenue he could get to the basket or one of his floaters. One thing is their bigs can collectively come off the ball and block shots. You have to tip your hat to them. We did a nice job of getting ball to the right spots at the end, the right people had it, you just have to live with the results.”
Sabonis on the defense: “I think we did a pretty decent job until the last minutes when they got away.”