What began as a wobble for the Cougars last weekend in California culminated with the Zags likely putting a nail in the coffin of BYU’s NCAA tournament aspirations. The Cougars weren’t expected to win this game when assessing their tournament credentials, but the Selection Committee also has eyes and were likely watching this game to see how BYU measured up against the conference’s gold standard. They did not make a strong case for themselves in the proverbial eye test. It’s also tough to make a convincing case that you should have a place in the tournament when you’ve lost four games in a row in the WCC. Sure, they’ve been shorthanded but they also look like a team that is completely lost on the floor.
At least the Cougars can claim that they had a 5-0 lead against Gonzaga in the first two minutes of the game before things went completely sideways for them and the Zags reeled off a 40-10 run over the next 12 minutes.. But enough about BYU as their woes are not Gonzaga’s concerns. This game was about Chet Holmgren and his complete dominance against an overmatched BYU frontcourt.
Holmgren’s already magnificent game has been at another level over the last few weeks, and he put an exclamation point on his run of form with this performance on the road in a hostile environment. 20 points, 17 rebounds, 6 assists, and 5 blocks doesn’t even seem like a real stat line for a single player, let alone one who only played 28 minutes and is a freshman. But then again, Holmgren has proven he’s a special player, and this was simply another special performance from him.
It has been said ad nauseam over the course of the season, but fans should not take the opportunity to watch him play, or the things that he is doing for this team, for granted. The Chet Holmgren experience is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
To his credit, Holmgren will tell you he’s not doing it alone out there. And he’s right. This victory was a complete team effort on both sides of the ball. All five starters once again scored in double figures with Rasir Bolton (13 points), Julian Strawther (19 points), and Holmgren getting the Zags on track offensively at the start of the game.
While the offense was rolling, it was Gonzaga’s defensive effort that turned this game into a laugher early in the evening. By the midway point of the first half, the Cougars looked like they didn’t want to be on the floor anymore with Gonzaga. By that point they had run out of answers for how to slow down or keep pace with the Zags and looked resigned to their fate. One of the subtle signs of Gonzaga’s complete dominance was forcing BYU into a shot clock violation after the Cougars had a timeout to draw up a play.
That was a team that wilted under the pressure that Gonzaga applied, and even when the Zags turned the pressure down the Cougars were still spooked by Holmgren’s very presence on the floor. The result of that was one of their most disjointed offensive performances against the Zags in recent memory.
BYU has a lot of soul searching to do over the next few days if they are to salvage their season. For Gonzaga, the growth its fans were hoping and expecting to see over the course of the season is manifesting itself right now. The scary part? It feels like they’re still working towards their ceiling. Good luck to everyone else in their path along the way.