Whatever Gonzaga’s record was for standing ovations in a game, the Zags obliterated it Saturday night.
The ovations seemed nonstop in the final 12 minutes, beginning with a technical foul whistled on the Cougars’ bench and extending from to Geno Crandall’s stop-start, double-crossover drive for a layup, to dunk after dunk, to thunderous applause when the GU seniors and starters exited the court.
It didn’t stop in the postgame, when seniors Josh Perkins, Jeremy Jones, Geno Crandall and walk-on Jack Beach addressed the crowd.
“This has been the best five years of my life,” Perkins said. “I got my brothers behind me. Let’s not make this the last time in the Kennel. Let’s go win this natty (national championship) and we’ll have a party afterward.”
Crandall, the graduate transfer who has been on campus for just more than four months, raced over and exchanged high-fives with the front row of the Kennel Club. He was followed by Jones and the rest of the Zags.
“That was big time,” said Perkins, who had a season-high 21 points and seven assists. “The atmosphere, playing against BYU, last game at the Kennel, fun is definitely the word.
“We were talking about it on the bench – one of the funnest games I’ve been part of.”
The Zags, who figure to move up to No. 1 in Monday’s AP poll, stomped the Cougars (18-12, 10-5 WCC) for the second time in three weeks. It took a while to get separation, but Gonzaga (27-2, 14-0) broke free near the midpoint of the second half.
Gonzaga threatened to pull away several times before, but the Cougars, behind the one-two scoring punch of TJ Haws and Yoeli Childs, closed within 64-53 on Haws’ layup.
The Zags scored the next nine points, part of a 23-3 run that put the Cougars in an 87-56 hole with 5:10 remaining.
“Couldn’t have scripted it any better, just the energy we played with, how we shared it and took great care of the ball,” coach Mark Few said. “It also showed how tough BYU is to defend, especially Haws and Childs are just a handful.
“I feel like we took some of their best shots. The whole time, our offense was clicking.”
Gonzaga broke the 100-point mark for the sixth time this season, the previous instance coming against Denver (101-40) on Dec. 21. The Zags scored 51 points in each half, shot 54.5 percent and turned the ball over just six times, once in the final 20 minutes.
Zach Norvell Jr. scored 18 points in the first half and finished with 25. Rui Hachimura pounded away inside for 23 points and 10 rebounds.
Crandall added eight points and four assists. Jones added seven points and six boards. Beach joined the four seniors and Hachimura in the starting lineup.
“Just sharing the ball, everybody can score,” Hachimura said. “We trusted each other. We just had fun.”
Haws and Childs combined for 36 points but also had eight turnovers. They didn’t get much help in the scoring column from their teammates. No other Cougars scored in double digits. Part of Gonzaga’s decisive 23-3 run came with Childs on the bench after picking up his fourth foul.
The Zags were in attack mode from the outset. They found a willing uptempo partner in BYU, but Gonzaga was more comfortable with the blazing pace.
The Zags ran at every opportunity, feasting on eight Cougars turnovers good for 15 first-half points.
“When the pace is that fast, it fits us perfectly,” said Brandon Clarke, who finished with 11 points and 10 boards. “The second half we had some crazy, energizing plays that made the crowd burst.”
Gonzaga led by double figures (17-7) just past the 5-minute mark. The Zags stretched it to 43-30, but BYU clawed back, cutting the lead to 45-38. Perkins nailed a 3-pointer and Norvell took Haws off the dribble for a three-point play, giving Gonzaga a 51-38 halftime lead.
Perkins, Norvell and Crandall were effective in dribble penetration, supplying a chunk of Gonzaga’s 46 points. Perkins and Norvell combined for seven of GU’s nine 3-pointers.
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