The BYU Cougars held on to knock off the No. 3 ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs 73-70 in the McCarthey Athletic Center in Spokane, Washington, on Saturday night. The Cougars led the entire game as they snapped a Bulldogs' 41-game home winning streak and came away with the biggest road win in more than three decades.
Kyle Collinsworth led the way for BYU with 20 points on 8-for-17 shooting from the floor with eight rebounds, three assists and two steals. Skyler Halford and Chase Fischer also came up big in the victory. Halford had 14 points on 5-for-9 shooting with four rebounds while Fischer managed 13 points and four rebounds. The only other BYU player to reach double figures was Tyler Haws who finished with 10 points, but struggled much of the night. He shot just 3-for-11 from the floor and 4-for-8 from the line, including a pair of misses late in the game that could have sealed the deal.
Byron Wesley carried the scoring load for the Bulldogs with 17 points on 6-for-9 shooting with a team-high nine rebounds. Domantas Sabonis added 12 points on 4-for-6 shooting from the floor with eight rebounds and two assists while Kyle Dranginis chipped in with eight points and four rebounds. Kevin Pangos and Przemek Karnowski each scored eight points as well as the Gonzaga fell to 29-2 on the season. Pangos added five assists, four steals and three rebounds while Karnowski had three boards and three blocks.
Why the Cougars won
The Cougars won this game on the defensive end of the floor. They got in on shooters and made them work for every shot and it paid off in a big way. They held the regularly sweet-shooting Bulldogs to just 25-for-57 shooting from the floor (43.9 percent), including 6-for-16 from beyond the arc (37.5 percent).
The Cougars limited leading scorer Kyle Wiltjer to just four points on 2-for-11 shooting from the floor compared to 24 points in the first meeting of the season. They also did an excellent job on Pangos who shot 3-for-12 from the floor after drilling two early 3-point shots. That was a far cry from the 21 points he put on BYU in Provo earlier in the year.
What it means
Barring a meltdown in the West Coast Conference tournament, the Cougars will have to go looking for some dancing shoes because there is a really good chance they will get an invitation to the NCAA tournament.
BYU has won six games in a row and seven of the last eight to earn the second seed in the conference playoff. That is very significant when you consider that the WCC might be a two bid league.
The turning point
While there wasn't a huge shift in this game, it was how the Cougars started the second half that made the difference. With the scored tied at 36, BYU used an 11-5 run to re-establish a lead. Corbin Kaufusi started the run with a 3-point play. After Gonzaga answered, Collinsworth and Fischer added three points each to stretch the lead.
Grading the performance
The Cougars weren't at their best on the offensive end of the floor. They didn't shoot well (only Halford and Kaufusi shot better than 50 percent), didn't share the ball and were awful at the free-throw line, hitting just 16-of-29 attempts (55.2 percent).
Where they made up for the offensive struggles was with physical play. They won the battle on the glass and limited the interior scoring of the Bulldogs. Kaufusi was key to that effort with three blocked shots and two steals to go along with seven points and six rebounds.
Ryan Andrus also deserves a mention for his clutch play. With BYU clinging to a 1-point lead he stepped to the foul line and knocked down a pair of free-throws to help the Cougars hold on.
The Bulldogs just didn't have it against the Cougars. They didn't shoot well and couldn't take advantage of size mismatches because of the toughness shown by the Cougars.
Wiltjer had his worst scoring game of the year with a season-low four points while Pangos wasn't much better.
Three telling stats
The Cougars held Gonzaga to 43.9 percent shooting from the floor. That is the fifth worst shooting performance of the season for the Bulldogs in 31 games.
BYU outrebounded the Bulldogs 41-39. The Cougars haven't lost a game this season when they win the rebounding battle.
Wiltjer shot 18.2 percent from the field in the loss and was 0-for-4 from 3-point range. On the season he is a 53 percent shooter, including 44.9 percent from distance.
As the No. 2 seed in the WCC tournament, BYU will face the winner of Santa Clara and Loyola Marymount. The Cougars swept both teams this season.
The Santa Clara Broncos finished the regular season in fine fashion by knocking off Saint Mary's 71-70. They have a record of 13-17, including 7-11 in WCC action. The Broncos are led by Brandon Clark and Jared Brownridge. Clark is averaging 15.5 points, 3.8 assists and 3.6 rebounds while Brownridge is putting up 15.4 points, three rebounds and 2.6 assists.
The Loyola Marymount Lions ended the season on a six-game losing streak to finish with a record of 8-22, including 4-14 in the WCC. The Lions are led by Evan Payne and Marin Mornar. Payne is averaging 17.6 points on 44.4 percent shooting with 2.6 rebounds and 1.7 assists while Mornar adds 10.1 points on 51.9 percent shooting with 5.4 rebounds and 1.5 blocks.
Jay Yeomans is a courier by day and a freelance writer by night. He is the creator and lead writer of the website jmoneysports.com. Contact him at email@example.com. Twitter: @jmoneysports