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Analysis: Gonzaga silences BYU, crowd en route to 93-63 victory

UPDATED: Thu., Jan. 31, 2019

Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura  drives around BYU forward Luke Worthington  during the first half Thursday  in Provo, Utah. (Rick Bowmer / AP)
Gonzaga forward Rui Hachimura drives around BYU forward Luke Worthington during the first half Thursday in Provo, Utah. (Rick Bowmer / AP)

PROVO, Utah – There was an echo inside the Marriott Center, but it was a soft one.

It usually followed the full-throat eruption by BYU faithful after the Cougars would cut into Gonzaga’s lead.

The sound would bounce off the walls for a minute or two as BYU strung together two or three baskets. Then Gonzaga would answer, usually with a longer run that took the energy out of the crowd of 15,396.

The fourth-ranked Zags built an early lead, turned away several BYU rallies and coasted to an impressive 93-63 victory Thursday.

“They create adversity with their crowd and they feed off their crowd,” said Gonzaga senior point guard Josh Perkins, who had 10 assists. “We did our job. We cut off runs, and the scoreboard showed (it).”

The scoreboard showed what has become common for the Zags in conference games. They essentially matched their average victory margin of 31.2.

Gonzaga (20-2, 7-0 WCC) captured its 28th straight conference road win. The Zags have won five in a row at the Marriott Center, and for one of the rare times they enjoyed one without a white-knuckle finish.

BYU dropped to 13-10, 5-3. The Cougars suffered their worst home loss since a 42-point setback to New Mexico in 1997.

Junior forward Brandon Clarke had one of his best performances of the season. He made his first eight shots and finished with 23 points and nine rebounds.

Rui Hachimura added 20 points and nine boards. Corey Kispert hit four 3-pointers and scored 16 points. Norvell had 12 points and four of the Zags’ 21 assists.

“When we share the ball like that, play aggressive and don’t turn the ball over, we’re going to get any shot we want against any defense,” Kispert said.

Gonzaga took control early but not without some anxious moments. GU turnovers on its first two possessions turned up the volume, particularly in BYU’s student section, but the Zags lowered the decibel level with 7-0 and 10-0 runs to open up a 17-5 lead.

BYU cut it to 23-18 on the strength of eight straight points by Yoeli Childs, but the Zags took off again with much of the damage coming on the offensive glass. Hachimura drove the lane for a layup and Geno Crandall followed with a pull-up jumper after two offensive boards.

Clarke had a putback dunk and Hachimura’s second-chance layup gave Gonzaga 37-20 lead with 3:05 left.

Childs saw a steady diet of double-teams after his scoring run and the Cougars failed to capitalize on his kick-out passes. BYU had decent looks most of the half but couldn’t connect as numerous shots rimmed in and out. The Cougars made just 27.3 percent of their first-half shots.

Gonzaga didn’t have the same problem. The Zags had quality attempts on nearly every possession that didn’t end with one of their six first-half turnovers. When they missed, their size inside was too much for the Cougars’ frontcourt. Gonzaga collected seven offensive boards in the first half and had a 10-0 edge in second-chance points.

Childs had five rebounds, but he also played all 20 minutes and seemed to tire later in the half.

Gonzaga’s lead reached 21 when Norvell scored on an easy layup and Perkins zipped a pass to Hachimura for a dunk. BYU scored the last four points of the half to cut it 41-24 and had a chance at another after a Perkins’ turnover, but the clock expired before TJ Haws attempted a layup.

BYU pulled within 13 early in the second half only to watch Clarke take over. He drove around Childs for a basket, dunked home Norvell’s lob pass, buried a 3-pointer and added a steal as Gonzaga rebuilt its lead to 52-32.

“I give props to Josh and Zach (Norvell Jr.),” Clarke said. “Just really good reads and great passes.”

The Cougars rallied within 14 only to watch Killian Tillie connect on a 3-pointer.

Gonzaga sent fans streaming for the exits with another burst that created a 77-48 lead.

Haws led BYU with 16 points and Childs added 12 on 3-of-11 shooting.

“We had our traps coming (at Childs) the whole game,” Clarke said. “I think that bothered him a bit.”

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