The end of the Gonzaga-BYU WCC rivalry (at least regular season edition) ended on the right note. These two teams have battled hard time and time again over the last decade plus, so the Bulldogs made sure to send off the Cougars with yet one more loss as a WCC opponent. That Gonzaga legend Courtney Vandersloot was in the building watching on just hours after her number #21 got hung in the rafters of The Kennel ensured a perfect Gonzaga Day.
Julian Strawther followed up his heroics in Provo with another big outing as he led all scorers with 26 points to go with 5 rebounds and 2 assists. Drew Timme had 19 points, highlighted by a 5-6 performance from the free throw line, a career high 8 assists, and 7 rebounds. Anton Watson was everywhere, finishing with 12 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals, and 1 block, while Rasir Bolton added 13 points.
The game started with both teams on fire. Gonzaga opened 7-9 from the field with some crisp ball movement while Timme shredded the BYU interior. It looked like it could be one of those guys were the Zags blew things wide open, but a flurry of three-pointers by the Cougars kept them in the game early and then put them ahead for most of the middle 20 minute-stretch of the contest.
Similar to their first game in Provo a few weeks ago, the free-flowing offensive game that we saw in the opening minutes gave way to a bruising battle with lots of empty and disjointed possessions. The physicality favored the Cougars as they successfully disrupted Gonzaga’s offense and controlled the boards which consequently allowed them to take a narrow 37-34 lead at the break.
Gonzaga played more aggressively to open the second half as they attacked the Cougars early and often and drew five fouls in the first three and a half minutes of the game with the bonus not coming long thereafter. But that aggressiveness and those fouls failed to yield points and the lead.
BYU came up with a lot of answers in order to stay in front. The Cougars made a load of very difficult shots that were very well defended by Gonzaga, particularly in the middle of the half when the Zags looked poise to make their push. Gonzaga’s defense has been an easy punching bag for most of this season, but the defense actually did a nice job for much of the second half and yet it didn’t seem like it would be enough to slow down the Cougars.
To their credit, the Zags kept pushing and never gave up despite it feeling like one of those nights were BYU was going to steal the game.
It was Gonzaga’s defense that got the job done with BYU held without a field goal for over three minutes in crunch time before Rudi Williams made a layup with 17 seconds left. That defensive stretch and a handful of big shots from Strawther and Bolton gave Gonzaga the lead for good and secured a big win to bid BYU adieu.