BYU no match for No. 2 Gonzaga in 110-84 loss
Facing the challenge of playing second-ranked Gonzaga at the McCarthey Center in Spokane, the BYU men’s basketball team ripped off one of its best offensive first halves of the season.
At the break, the Cougars trailed by 12 points.
It takes an exceptional effort to beat the ‘Zags on their home floor, but when Mark Few’s boys play like they played on Thursday night on ESPN2, forget about it.
Gonzaga shot 69% from the field and ran away with a 110-84 victory, effortlessly slicing through the BYU defense like it wasn’t there. When the ‘Zags weren’t dropping in long distance 3s – they made 10 3-pointers in the first half alone – they were letting Drew Timme go to work in the paint. The 6-foot-10 senior scored 30 points on 13 of 14 from the field as the young Cougar post players had absolutely no idea how to slow him down.
This from what has been considered one of the best defensive teams in Provo in a decade. On Thursday, BYU gave up more than 100 points in regulation for the first time since 2018 at Weber State – ironically, 100 games ago.
Offensively, the Cougars played about as well as could be expected against the talented ‘Zags.
They got shredded.
Caleb Lohner, who had a strong offensive game with 17 points, provided Bulldog fans with some fodder earlier this week after saying in a news conference that “Everyone hates Gonzaga.”
He was even more blunt after the 26-point loss.
“We came in here knowing it was going to be a fight,” Lohner said on the BYU Sports Network. “This team is one of the best in the country if not the best team in the country. We just got our a– kicked, no other way about it. 110 points is way too many if we want to win the game.”
Aside from Timme’s 30, Andrew Nembhard had 22 points and Julian Strawther 20 for Gonzaga (2-0 WCC, 13-2 overall). Freshman Chet Holmgren joined those three in double figures with 12. The ‘Zags had 28 assists on 43 made baskets, led by Nembhard with 12.
Alex Barcello was 4 of 6 from the 3-point line and led BYU (2-1, 14-4) with 19 points and Te’Jon Lucas added 10. The Cougars finished a respectable 43% (32 of 74) from the field and made 13 of 29 (45%) from the 3-point line after going 1 for 13 on Saturday against Saint Mary’s.
It wasn’t nearly enough against the white-hot ‘Zags.
“Listen, this is a really good team,” BYU coach Mark Pope said. “They’re the presumptive No. 1 team in the country and this is probably the toughest place to play in the country and they proved it tonight. They were coming in barrages and we didn’t have answers, especially on the defensive end. We were not prepared to slow them down tonight and it’s super disappointing.”
The first half was an offensive showcase for both teams, with BYU and Gonzaga combining to make 20 3-pointers. The ‘Zags also couldn’t miss from inside the arc and finished the half shooting 68% from the field.
The Cougars jumped out to an early 7-0 lead, but Gonzaga scored 10 points in about 90 seconds to jump back out in front. BYU led 22-20 on a driving hoop from Lucas, but the ‘Zags went on a 24-7 run to lead by 19, 46-27, with 4:47 to play in the half. The Cougars got hot, getting triples from Seneca Knight, Gideon George, Spencer Johnson and Barcello to close the gap. Barcello converted a nifty 3-point play with 29 seconds to go and trimmed the home team’s halftime lead to 61-49.
Barcello finished the first half with 14 points on 3 of 4 from the 3-point line. Gonzaga had four players in double figures with Strawther (16), Nembhard (13), Timme (12), and Holmgren (10).
BYU cut the deficit to seven (61-54) to start the second half when Barcello dropped in a 3-pointer and Fousseyni Traore added a basket. But Gonzaga, which shot close to 80% from the field for the majority of the second half, easily extended that lead back up to 18, 76-58, at the 15-minute mark of the second half. The Cougars couldn’t keep up their efficient first-half shooting and trailed by as many as 34 points.
“We just didn’t have answers and we’ve got to get better,” Pope said. “That’s what this game teaches, you just have to get better.”
BYU doesn’t have any time to dwell on the loss with an important road game at San Francisco coming up on Saturday. The Dons routed Loyola Marymount 97-73 on Thursday to move to 15-2 this season.