Killian Tillie led Gonzaga in scoring with 18 points before fouling out. Corey Kispert finished with 16 points and 6 rebounds, though he struggled from long-distance at 1-10 from the arc. Admon Gilder notched 13 points, while Filip Petrusev chipped in with 14 though he and Joel Ayayi each had four turnovers. Drew Timme was the only Zag to finish with a positive +/-, and he provided much needed energy and intensity in the second half with 8 points and 8 rebounds.
Gonzaga had no answers for BYU’s offense, led by Yoeli Childs who finished with 28 points and 10 rebounds. Jake Toolson tormented the Zags from the arc with 17 points, including 5-9 from three. TJ Haws was a menace and added 16 points and 8 assists.
The first half got off to a slow start as the atmosphere inside the Marriott Center resulted in both teams playing a little too amped up, which more often than not results in sub-optimal basketball. That didn’t last too long, however, as both squads are too talented offensively to struggle at putting the ball in the basket for any extended amount of time.
The Zags were effective at taking away the three-point line early for the Cougars, who missed their first six 3-point attempts of the game. But the nation’s best three-point shooting team wouldn’t be denied all night, led by Jake Toolson who wiggled free on far too many occasions to finish the first half with three makes from the arc.
As Gonzaga’s defense began to show chinks in the armor, the typically reliable offense tried to keep pace but it wasn’t operating at peak efficiency. 10 first half turnovers prevented the Zags from establishing any offensive rhythm, and only two offensive rebounds ensured they didn’t get many trips down the floor with multiple bites at the apple en route to a 38-46 halftime deficit.
For the second game in a row, Gonzaga found itself emerging from the break needing to claw its way back into the game. Unlike Thursday night, however, the Zags didn’t have the juice to get it done.
Instead, it was the Cougars who emerged from halftime energized and they quickly extended their lead to 58-44 inside the first three minutes of the second half. If not for Tillie providing Gonzaga’s first seven points of the second half, the Zags could have been facing a 20-point deficit in the blink of an eye.
Though the Marriott Center was rocking, Gonzaga finally made a push to get back in the game. A handful of steals led to transition opportunities which cut the deficit quickly, and some gritty work on the offensive boards by Timme created the second and third chance opportunities that were lacking in the first half. The Zags cut BYU’s lead down all the way to two points at 68-70 with just under eight minutes to go, but they would get no closer.
Tip your hat to the Cougars for not flinching in the face of Gonzaga’s big run. They made the three-pointers they needed to re-establish a comfortable cushion, while the Zags failed to capitalize on the looks they were given which could have completed the comeback.
The opportunities were certainly there for the Zags in the second half to leave Provo with a victory, but on this night, they simply couldn’t convert.