basketball-men-d1 flag

Jim Meehan | The Spokesman-Review | February 26, 2017

Gonzaga's close-game inexperience on display in first loss

  Gonzaga's own dominance this season came back to haunt it against BYU.

It looked like No. 1 Gonzaga was going to treat BYU the same way it treated its first 17 WCC game this season.

Gonzaga went in front 18-2 and yet another double-digit victory was taking shape โ€” all on Senior Night in front of a roaring crowd of 6,000 Saturday at the McCarthey Athletic Center as the Zags tried to put the finishing touches on the first unbeaten regular season in program history.

And then it flipped. BYU pulled it together at both ends of the floor and closed within six at halftime.

GU temporarily rebuilt its lead to 12, but the Cougars wouldn't go away. They clawed ahead with 8:35 left โ€” just the third time this season GU trailed in a second half and the first time since Pacific on Dec. 31. It was back and forth the rest of the way.

The Zags haven't been in a white-knuckle game in a while, and it looked like it.

Gonzaga turned the ball over, couldn't make free throws, couldn't get defensive stops and watched BYU make all the key plays in the final two minutes.

The Cougars dug out a 79-71 win, spoiling GU's Senior Night and its bid for a perfect regular season.

"Nothing in practice is exactly like the game, including end-of-game situations," Gonzaga guard Nigel Williams-Goss said. "Obviously, we haven't been in that situation. I don't think we executed as well as we could have. We have to learn from it and get better going down the stretch."

In the final two minutes, Gonzaga gave up a driving layup to Elijah Bryant, an open jumper to Eric Mika and a putback to Corbin Kaufusi.

  BYU's upset at Gonzaga was arguably the biggest this season.
At the offensive end, the Zags misfired on a good look in the lane before sophomore guard Josh Perkins committed turnovers on the next two possessions.

"There were some breakdowns we had at the end," senior guard Jordan Mathews said. "We missed a box-out, we should have made our free throws. Those came back to bite us tonight.

"The season's not over. It is a great season. I know every other team would love to be 29-1. We'd love to be 30-0, but we're 29-1. Go back to the drawing board on Monday."

Gonzaga's defense, a cornerstone throughout the season, yielded 44 second-half points. Mika, BYU's sophomore center who was held in check in Gonzaga's 85-75 win in Provo earlier this month, broke loose for 29 points and 11 rebounds.

The Cougars had 12 offensive rebounds and a 15-8 edge in second-chance points.

"Our defense in the second half wasn't the best," GU senior center Przemek Karnowski said. "We based our team on defense this season and that's what we took pride in. We just have to get better defending 1-on-1, help-side, rebounding. Everything.

"Mika was hitting shots. We decided not to double and [Collins] and [Johnathan Williams] had to deal with him 1-on-1. He's a good player and he was hitting those tough shots."

Mika had company as freshman guard TJ Haws buried five 3-pointers and scored 17 points and Bryant, in addition to playing solid defensively against Williams-Goss, chipped in 14 points.

"Obviously, we didn't play defense up to the level we should be playing," junior guard Silas Melson said. "It's all on us. The coaches threw everything out there that we needed to know, we just didn't execute it.

"We let Haws get hot in the first half, we can't do that. We let Mika expose us. It was self-explanatory."

This article is written by Jim Meehan from The Spokesman-Review and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to


Gonzaga upsets No. 3 Stanford women's basketball behind strong perimeter shooting

Gonzaga upset No. 3 Stanford women's basketball on Sunday, 96-78, with season-high performances by Brynna Maxwell and Yvonne Ejim.

The 10 best shooters in women's basketball ahead of the 2023-24 season

Perimeter shooting is on the rise across all of women's college basketball, so here's a look at the ten best entering the 2022-23 season

Gonzaga tops UCLA in another instant classic as Drew Timme's huge day powers Bulldogs to Elite Eight

Gonzaga and UCLA played in another instant classic in March Madness as the Bulldogs and Bruins both had big rallies and clutch shots late. In the end, Gonzaga advanced, 79-76.

Subscribe To Email Updates

Enter your information to receive emails about offers, promotions from and our partners