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Sports >  Gonzaga basketball

Round 3: Gonzaga, BYU tangle for WCC Tournament title

March 9, 2021 Updated Tue., March 9, 2021 at 12:21 p.m.

Gonzaga guard Andrew Nembhard shoots over BYU's  Connor Harding (44) in a Feb. 8 game in Provo.  (Associated Press)
Gonzaga guard Andrew Nembhard shoots over BYU's  Connor Harding (44) in a Feb. 8 game in Provo. (Associated Press)

The first two meetings weren’t exactly instant classics, but BYU coach Mark Pope believes his team can change that in round three against No. 1 Gonzaga.

The Zags and second-seeded Cougars tangle for the WCC Tournament championship at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.

Gonzaga led 23-2 and eventually by 32 points in an 86-69 win in Spokane. The Zags led by as many as 22 while winning the rematch 82-71 in Provo.

“We were incredibly frustrated with our first effort, the second was a little better,” Cougars coach Mark Pope said. “We have to find a way to step up and raise our level of play to match them. They deserve a great game and we’re hungry to play a great game.

“We think we have more in the tank. We believe we do.”

The Cougars (20-5) had to empty the tank in Monday’s semifinal win over third-seeded Pepperdine. They trailed for 36-plus minutes in regulation before digging out an 82-77 overtime win.

BYU’s challenge is slowing down the nation’s top offense.

“They’re a generational team,” Pope said of the Zags. “I don’t know when or if I’ve seen a team with five guys on the floor that are as skilled and can pass the ball and make plays for each other like they can.”

Gonzaga (25-0) crushed Saint Mary’s 78-55 to advance to the championship game for the 24th straight year. The Zags are 5-0 against BYU in the WCC Tournament, including title-game wins in 2018 (74-54), 2015 (91-75) and 2014 (75-64).

The Cougars haven’t won a WCC regular-season or tournament title since joining the conference in 2012.

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