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BYU basketball: Gonzaga doesn't consider BYU as a rival

PROVO — Since joining the West Coast Conference five years ago, BYU has never won a regular-season conference championship and it has never won a WCC tournament title.

One of the reasons for that is perennial conference champion Gonzaga, which defeated Saint Mary’s 85-75 in the WCC title game Tuesday.

Still, the Cougars have claimed two consecutive victories at The Kennel, where the Zags rarely lose.

The two teams have provided plenty of thrilling, memorable battles that have come down to the final seconds in recent years. This season, BYU won in Spokane, 69-68, lost in Provo, 71-68, then fell Monday night in the WCC tournament semifinals, 88-84.

Are BYU and Gonzaga rivals?

The Zags say no.

“I don’t know if it’s really a rivalry because I think in a rivalry you’ve got to hate the other side,” said Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer. “And those guys are some nice kids. I missed one at the free throw line and they were like, ‘It’s OK, Kyle, you’ve got it next time.’ They show a tremendous amount of character. Those guys are competitors and they leave it all out on the court. I really respect them.”

“I would just say there’s a tremendous amount of respect from players to players, as you saw after the game, the way they interacted, from coaching staff to coaching staff and the coaching staffs to the players,” said Zags coach Mark Few. “We know you’ve been in a good fight at the end of each of these games. You tip your hat and they feel the same way about us. It’s not just this year, it’s last year and the year before that. We both like to play fast and it makes for great basketball.”

Said Gonzaga guard Josh Perkins: “It’s just two great basketball programs going at it. It’s great to be a part of it.”

The Cougars are 0-4 against the Zags in the WCC tournament. Gonzaga has played in 19 consecutive WCC championship games.

“There’s a lot of mutual respect on both sides, from the coaching staffs, players and fans,” said BYU guard Kyle Collinsworth. He called Gonzaga “a great basketball organization.”

SHARP-SHOOTER: BYU freshman Nick Emery scored 27 points Monday to surpass the 500-point plateau for the season.

Emery now has 518 points, surpassing Shawn Bradley for second-most by a Cougar freshman. He’s also drilled 87 3-pointers this season, sixth-best in a single season by a BYU player.

TIP-INS: Nate Austin is one game away from playing in his 150th game as a Cougar. No BYU player has participated in more games … Chase Fischer has the second-most (103 last year) and third-most (98 this year) 3-pointers in a season in BYU history … Fischer also has 22 consecutive games with a 3-pointer, tied for the second-longest streak in a season at BYU … Fischer is only the fifth Cougar to make at least 200 3-pointers in his career.

EMAIL: jeffc@deseretnews.com