Gonzaga-BYU once again lived up to the pregame hype and was another classic game between the two WCC Schools. The teams went back and forth as each tried to solidify their NCAA tournament resumes with a quality win. Only one team would accomplish that feat when the night ended and it wasn’t the team wearing the home colors. Gonzaga fell to BYU at home 69-68 Thursday night. It was another close loss that left Gonzaga with its third home loss this season. The Bulldogs lost one home game all last season with that loss also coming to the Cougars.
Gonzaga’s Kyle Wiltjer once again carried the scoring load for Gonzaga as the senior had 35 of the team’s 68 points. It was another struggle for the Gonzaga guards shooting the ball, much like it has been for most of this season. Domantas Sabonis, the second leading scorer on the team, was held to 5 points in limited minutes as he had foul trouble for most of the game.
BYU was led by Kyle Collinsworth, who had 20 points to help the Cougars to another upset win over the Zags. Chase Fischer added 18 points for BYU, but he struggled mightily from beyond the arc on this night as he hit only one three, while BYU as a team was just 3-17 from the three point arc for the game. Gonzaga wasn’t much better as they made 6 threes and shot 30 percent from three for the game.
It was a game that Gonzaga led by four at the half, and one that the Zags seemingly had control of throughout as they were up by as many as 13 in the second half. BYU never gave up though, climbing back in it seemingly every time Gonzaga tried to throw the knockout punch. It was the third time this season Gonzaga lost while leading at the half. The Zags once again couldn’t finish in the final minutes leading to their fourth loss of the year, which exceeded last year’s total of three losses all year long.
The game was tight in the final minutes and a three pointer by Nick Emery, the BYU freshmen guard gave the Cougars a 69-67 lead with just over a minute to play. It was Emery’s only points of the game. Kyle Wiltjer was fouled driving to the hoop on the game’s final possession, but he only made one of two free throws to cut the deficit to one. Gonzaga then made a stop on defense, and a BYU turnover gave Gonzaga a chance to pull out a win, but Nate Austin had other ideas for BYU. It was his block on the final play of the game on Wiltjer’s potential go ahead layup that sealed it for BYU. Austin essentially came out of nowhere to block the game’s final shot, and it helped send Gonzaga to its first loss in conference play this season.
The story is essentially the same for the Gonzaga Bulldogs after the loss they played 35 minutes but couldn’t close in the final five. It was another chance for a quality home win blown by the Zags. Gonzaga is now running out of opportunities to win versus good teams. Its game’s like this where Gary Bell and Kevin Pangos are missed, as those two knew how to seal games for the Zags. Gonzaga has really missed their leadership both on and off the court this season. Perkins and the rest of the inexperienced players on the Zags simply haven’t been good enough up to this point in the year.
BYU went to 4-1 in conference play with the win, while Gonzaga stayed a half game up on them in the standings at 5-1. Gonzaga plays San Diego at home on Saturday, while BYU travels to Portland to play the Pilots.