PROVO — BYU had opportunities to improve its West Coast Conference position heading into the postseason when the Cougars hosted Gonzaga on Saturday night.

But as head coach Dave Rose said postgame, it wasn’t the Cougars’ best game, and a trio of factors played key roles in BYU coming up on the wrong end of a tough 71-68 loss in the regular-season finale at the Marriott Center.

“It’s tough, but there’s positives from this. There’s always positives. It makes us more hungry,” Cougar senior Kyle Collinsworth said.

1. Poor shooting, especially in key situations

First and foremost, the Cougars struggled with shots the entire night, leading to a 32.8 percent shooting effort from the floor.

While BYU fought back from a 12-point deficit and stayed within striking distance, the Cougars could never overcome a first-half Gonzaga run and retake the lead.

That’s not because BYU didn’t have chances. In the final minute, after whittling the deficit to two points, the Cougars had a chance to tie the game or take the lead on three straight possessions. Each time, BYU couldn’t convert.

That included freshman guard Nick Emery missing a pair of open 3-pointers in the final 20 seconds, as well as the chance to tie the game following an offensive foul from Gonzaga’s Domantas Sabonis.

A turnover on the Cougars’ final possession ended the home team’s final threat, and was perhaps a fitting way for things to end, as BYU had too many possessions when unclean play led to missed opportunities.

All totaled, BYU’s big three scorers — Collinsworth, Emery and Chase Fischer — went a combined 14-for-44 from the field, a tough performance to overcome despite the fact each player scored in double figures.

In the first half, Gonzaga turned a 26-20 deficit into a 36-27 edge as BYU missed nine straight field goal attempts and went more than six minutes without a field goal. The Cougars were without Collinsworth for a large portion of that drought, as he picked up his second foul with 8:24 to play until halftime, and he didn't return until BYU already had given up 11 straight points in Gonzaga's 16-1 run. The Zags, meanwhile, hit 6 of 9 shots during that stretch.

2. Not building on first-half fast-break points edge

In the first half, BYU and Gonzaga put up similar stat lines in steals, as the Cougars had eight and Gonzaga six. But BYU was better able to utilize its ability to poke the ball away, turning those steals into a 7-0 edge in fast-break points in the first 20 minutes.

But in the second half, the Cougars and Zags each had just two fast-break points. When BYU could have used some momentum-building help from its transition game to cut away at the Gonzaga lead, it simply didn’t come to fruition.

In the second half, BYU didn’t have any steals, as Gonzaga had two turnovers in the final 20 minutes. The Cougars finished the night with a 9-2 edge in fast-break points.

3. Inability to contain Gonzaga’s length

Kyle Wiltjer and Sabonis proved to be too difficult for the Cougars to contain, as the duo came up with key plays in clutch situations for the visiting Bulldogs.

The Cougars used a variety of defenders on the 6-foot-11 Sabonis and the 6-10 Wiltjer. Wiltjer scored a game-high 21 points and Sabonis collected a double-double with 15 points and 14 rebounds.

During Gonzaga’s 16-1 run in the first half, Wiltjer had eight points, including six of the first eight points of the run, and Sabonis had two.

In the final minutes of the game, they both came up clutch on offense, Sabonis in particular, after BYU trimmed the Gonzaga lead.

After BYU made it a 60-56 game with 6:23 to play on a pair of Corbin Kaufusi free throws, Sabonis hit a jumper 13 seconds later to push the lead back to six.

Emery quickly followed with a 3-pointer, but Sabonis again worked inside for a jumper to make it 64-59 with 5:23 to play on the ensuing possession.

Then after the Cougars cut it to 66-63 on another Kaufusi free throw, Wiltjer scored one from the free-throw line 13 seconds later to make it a two-possession game.

With just enough points here and there, Gonzaga was able to pull off the road victory.

“I feel for my guys,” Rose said. "They fought hard. It wasn't our best game, but we battled really hard."

Email: bjudd@deseretdigital.com; Twitter: @brandonljudd