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Gonzaga knocks off BYU in 86-69 win

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The Bulldog offense was in cruise control for much of the night.

NCAA Basketball: Santa Clara at Gonzaga James Snook-USA TODAY Sports

Gonzaga invited the BYU Cougars up to Spokane earlier than anticipated so they could finally open their WCC schedule. After an 86-69 scoreline that very much flatters the Cougars, the massive chasm between Gonzaga and every other team in the conference was confirmed.

Corey Kispert led all scorers with 23 points on 9-16 shooting, but he has been so brilliant this season that it somehow felt like his worst performance of the season. Jalen Suggs flashed his singular talents throughout the night, highlighted by another fullcourt laser to hit a streaking teammate in transition, en route to 16 points, 5 assists, 5 rebounds, and 4 steals. Andrew Nembhard and Drew Timme each chipped in 12 points, while Joel Ayayi finished with 8 points, all in the first half.

One-time Gonzaga transfer target Matt Haarms finished with 13 points, which was matched by freshman forward Caleb Lohner.

Rivalry games always have some extra juice, even without fans in the stands. You could see it in the body language of the Zags during the buildup to tipoff. That energy manifested into a brilliant start where they destroyed the visiting Cougars in a game that was only close when the scoreboard read 0-0.

The poor Cougars hadn’t played in two weeks, and it turns out a date with the best team in the country on short notice is a harsh return to action. Staring down a 16-2 deficit by the first media timeout, Mark Pope might have been regretting his call with Mark Few earlier this week to make this game happen.

A timeout didn’t stop the pain for the Cougars, and save for a short spell late in the first half when BYU put together a 10-2 run to cut the deficit to only 13 points, it was all Gonzaga all the time.

Gonzaga demonstrated its killer instinct in responding to that lone BYU run with a 13-0 run of its own to stretch the lead back to 26 points and snuff out any hope that the Cougars might have had in making a game out of their trip to Spokane.

That Mark Few opted to keep the rotation short into the second half despite a sizable lead was a little surprising, but there’s no questioning the outcome as BYU never really had a chance to regroup and settle into the game.

Few eventually emptied the bench, which is really the only way to prevent the Zags from reaching the century mark these days. Since joining the WCC, BYU has been the most competitive conference foe for Gonzaga. But on this night, this special Gonzaga squad made them look just like everyone else in the WCC.