What a compelling Senior night. Jack Beach, Jeremy Jones and Geno Crandall starting alongside Josh Perkins and Rui Hachimura. In addition to the four seniors mentioned, in all likelihood, Rui and Brandon Clarke won’t be back as well as possibly Killian Tillie and even Zach Norvell. As ESPN constantly repeated, BYU had won three of their last four games at the kennel. They’d also been playing some of their best basketball over the past four weeks. It didn’t matter.
Gonzaga mauled BYU 102 - 68. Snacks, Perk and Rui all scored 20+ points and Gonzaga’s video department gathered significant footage for this year’s highlight reel. T. J. Haws and Yoeli Childs did all they could to keep the game competitive, but Gonzaga is just too good with one of the best offenses in the history of college basketball firing on all cylinders.
Gonzaga fans have reason to be a bit fearful of BYU on Senior Night, but thanks to Zach Norvell they were able to relax at halftime. For the second game in a row, Norvell dominated the first half scoring 17 points including three 3’s and 3 fearless drives to the rim. Gonzaga went to the locker room with a 51 - 38 lead, despite Brandon Clarke having his worst half as a Zag going 0 for 5.
The second half was competitive for the first five minutes, but BYU quickly racked up fouls putting Gonzaga in the bonus with almost 15 minutes to play and the double bonus with 11 minutes. Foul shooting turned out not to be a factor, BYU imploded for lack of a better term with about 10 minutes left to play and Zag fans enjoyed the most exciting Senior Night in a long time. The turning point seemed to be a Corey Kispert block and the subsequent fast break causing BYU coach Dave Rose to rush onto the floor and pick up his second technical foul. The game was never competitive after that play. BYU seemed to lose heart and the Zags scored at will with an assortment of fast break dunks and twine scorching threes.
What fans will remember on the night are some of the most incredible plays of the season. BYU villain Nick Emery was the recipient of a 1st half ball fake by Zach Novell that causing him to trip and fall towards his bench. Then in the second half, Geno Crandall crossed him over in the key causing him to stumble about 10-feet in the opposite direction. Crandall had probably his best night as a Zag, scoring eight points on 4 for 5 shooting to go along with four assists. One of those baskets was a spectacular alley-oop dunk from a Josh Perkins feed.
Speaking of Perkins, he was borderline spectacular tonight. He scored the first seven Zag points of the second half, and finished with 21 points and 7 assists. Rui had a double-double with 23 points and 10 rebounds and Brandon Clarke returned to form in the second half with 11 points. Jeremy Jones had a solid performance in his last game at the Kennel with 7 points and 6 rebounds.
With Duke losing this week, the Zags should be the nation’s #1 team when the polls come out on Monday. They finish the regular season with a game at Pacific then a final game at Moraga.