The Gonzaga Bulldogs fell tantalizingly short of one of the biggest roadblocks in conference play, dropping at BYU, 70-68.
Prior to the tip-off, BYU would be considered the second-best squad in the WCC. The Zags have the big wins, but BYU had the record: a now 7-0 record. Defeating BYU meant a possible undefeated run through conference play. Now, the Zags are still sitting in a perfectly fine position, just looking a bit upward now.
By all accounts, the Bulldogs did exactly what they have done all year to win games: play hard ass defense. After the first 10 minutes, the Zags owned a 10 point lead thanks to forcing turnovers and making BYU pay.
BYU’s offense was too good to make it that easy, however. The Cougars scored 25 points in the second quarter, and took the game into halftime tied, 34 a piece. The rest of the game was a thrilling bit of back and forth play. Each time either team tried to make a run, it was stopped just as quickly as it started.
And despite some late game heroics from Laura Stockton, who led the Zags with 15 points, the defense, the key to this squad that has been instrumental in virtually every win so far, just wasn’t able to put it together in the fourth quarter. BYU did not miss many shots in the fourth quarter and was able to scrape together a lead oscillating between one and two points—just enough to escape in a game as close as this.
Sometimes, you can look at the box score and wonder what happened. Gonzaga shot 46.2 percent from the floor, BYU shot 48.1. Gonzaga shot 65 percent from free throw, BYU 68.4. The Zags outrebounded the Cougars and forced more turnovers. In the end, the kicker was in the late defense. BYU shot 56 percent from the floor in the second half, and in doing so, did what BYU always seems to somehow do: Win close games that ruin the mood at GU.