Douglas C. Pizac-USA Today Sports
The Zags survived an extremely physical contest as they outlasted BYU
6-30 from deep, 20-34 from the line, and outrebounded. It wasn't a pretty game for the Zags, no doubt, but they found a way to win and that is what great teams do. With their 70-65 win, Gonzaga locked up the WCC Regular Season Crown, moved to 28-2 on the season, and are a Portland win away from likely being the No. 1 team on Monday. No. 1...that is an amazing thing and hard to believe but after watching this team win in a variety of ways, including a very ugly way tonight, their impending ranking is nowhere near far-fetched.
Tonight's game was exactly the way we should have expected it to be. It was a frustrating, scream, shout, pull your hair out type of game. Tensions ran high and it got very chippy from time to time. To the Zags' credit, they did a great job staying composed and that was the difference. The first half was seemingly dominated by Gonzaga yet they were never able to pull away. Time and time again the Zags approached double figure leads only to miss an open look or see BYU make a big shot. Gary Bell Jr. came up very big in the first half as he drained some big threes and Kelly Olynyk imposed his will. The big story of the first half was foul trouble. Sam Dower and Elias Harris were saddled with fouls that left them on the bench for most of the half. The Bulldogs fought through and impressively held a four point lead at half.
The second half saw BYU continue to employ their very effective zone defense and really tighten the screws on Gonzaga. The Bulldogs outside shooters not named Gary Bell were about as cold as they have been all year long and BYU was able to scratch, claw, and shove their way back into the game. The officials allowed the contest to become far more physical than it needed to be, symbolized by Bronson Kaufusi's several malicious outbursts, the first of which should have gotten him ejected immediately. With all that and a raucous environment in Provo, the Zags fought on. Kelly Olynyk hit a huge jumper down the stretch and then Mark Few's wise choice to foul and a few Kevin Pangos free throws sealed the deal for Gonzaga.
Next up is a date with Portland on Saturday and the last time that a very special group of seniors will take the floor of the McCarthey Athletic Center. Oh, wait, is there something else I should be looking forward to?