Gonzaga insists advantage is nil despite Cougars' long, disheartening Thurs. loss

2014-01-25T00:15:00Z 2014-01-25T08:23:34Z Gonzaga insists advantage is nil despite Cougars' long, disheartening Thurs. lossJason Franchuk - Daily Herald Daily Herald
January 25, 2014 12:15 am  • 

SPOKANE, Wash. — Gonzaga coach Mark Few's team had won, so he sat and watched some more basketball nearly into Friday morning as BYU's game just wouldn't end.

One overtime, then two and another in Portland, Ore.

His assessment: "Both teams had multiple chances to put it away, that's for sure," he told the Daily Herald prior to the Bulldogs' practice on Friday afternoon.

But Few insists he hasn't given a single thought to the idea that BYU playing an extra 15 minutes, and suffering a crushing defeat at culmination, is somehow a giant advantage when the teams meet up in McCarthey Athletic Center on Saturday night (7 p.m. PST; ESPN2).

Few points to young, motivated, well-conditioned players and a little bit of personal history.

In 2005, Gonzaga (granted, then a top 10-ranked team, unlike the Cougars these days) required three overtimes to outlast Michigan State and reach the championship game of the Maui Invitational.

The very next night — even significantly less rest than BYU received Friday — Few praised that year's team with its effort that only lost, 65-63, to No. 3-ranked UConn.

"I'm not big on that whole cliche, 'we won't have any legs.' I just don't believe any of it," Few said. "Those guys (BYU) play faster than any team in the country. They're in phenomenal shape. We're going to do what we do and they're going to do what they do. I don't expect them to slow the ball down any."

Ah, legs and muscles and lungs are one thing. But what about BYU's mindset? This isn't November with a top 10-ranked team that is in paradise with a whole season in front of it.

Time is running short, fast, for BYU. And all of a sudden, it seems. That is, if reaching the NCAA Tournament is the goal despite some awkward road losses to Loyola Marymount, Pepperdine and Portland that have undone all of the aspirations of playing significantly more successful teams in the non-conference slate.

The Cougars fell to 13-8 (and an even more disheartening 5-3 in West Coast games) with the loss at Portland.

How much of BYU's mojo was snapped will be discovered at the MAC (better known as "The Kennel"), where the Cougars have been hammered by an average of 15 points in the two trips here as WCC colleagues. A five-game winning streak was lost in Portland, too.

BYU's late-night loss at UP, which included squandering an eight-point edge in the second overtime, gave GU (17-3, 7-1) a full two-game edge in the league standings.

BYU coach Dave Rose said on his post-game radio show (KSL) that he already lamented many parts leading up to the 114-110 outcome.

"I don't know if we played well enough to win," he said, soul searching for answers to rebounding — especially off missed free throws — and defense that wasn't quite dialed in enough on the Pilots' best long-range shooters. It looked like BYU of the losing-streak days, at a very inopportune time.

The lead changed hands, or the score was tied, 17 times in possibly BYU's most memorable game in three WCC seasons. UP just happens to be good enough to beat both GU (first time in 20 tries) and the Cougars (first time in five WCC meetings) at home in the same season.

"But I think they knew Ty (Haws) was a pretty good scorer, and he goes and scores 48," Rose said of scouting-report mishaps that can be even less afforded against GU. "So it goes both ways I guess."

So could BYU's night along the Spokane River, at the most impenetrable WCC home venue.

BYU could majestically claw back into the WCC race against the worst of the three Gonzaga teams (unranked this time) it'll have faced.

Or there's ample reason to believe a fatigued, disheartened BYU is about to start playing out the string until the early March WCC tournament, where there's at least still hope for winning an NCAA tourney bid by winning the whole thing in Las Vegas.

BYU didn't get back to its downtown Portland hotel until well after midnight, then took a chartered flight close to noon Friday.

Some GU non-basketball officials joked in their offices that BYU must have been worn down. The Cougars altered their shoot-around times at MAC on a couple of occasions, finally arriving around 90 minutes later than first anticipated.

Gonzaga insists it has its own problems at the top. The Bulldogs have had a rampant flu bug "going like wildfire" through the roster, Few said.

The Cougars may still be sick to their stomachs, too, in a different way.

"This will be interesting to see how our guys respond to this," Rose said.

BYU (13-8, 5-3 West Coast Conference) vs. Gonzaga (17-3, 7-1)

7 p.m. PST, McCarthey Athletic Center (Spokane, Wash.)

Radio: KSL 1160 AM (102.7 FM)


Tip-ins: Gonzaga leads the series, 5-2, and has won 4-of-5 as WCC opponents. ...BYU backup point guard Matt Carlino has 18 assists and no turnovers in his last two games. ...Kara Lawson and Beth Mowins will handle the TV call, the first time two women have done a national-TV game of BYU's.

-- Jason Franchuk covers primarily BYU football and basketball for the Daily Herald. You can connect with him by email at jfranchuk@heraldextra.com or by following him on Twitter at

Read more from  Jason Franchuk here.

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