This is what’s going on inside Darnell’s head the day after something amazing happened in the Marriott Center.
I bumped into former Cougar legend Danny Ainge.
Literally. I was headed to my seat on press row for the BYU-Gonzaga game, he stood up from his chair and we collided.
He said, “sorry,” I said, “sorry” and we moved on. A few moments later I thought, “Block or charge?” which is a popular internet meme. That’s OK, Danny. I’ll take the foul. It was a block.
What a night
I was texting with my compatriot at the Daily Herald, Jared Lloyd, discussing what we were going to write about for the follow-up to BYU’s win against Gonzaga. We talked about a few things and Jared texted, “There are a million storylines.”
How right he is.
That’s what makes a night like Saturday so special, right? It’s a shared experience -- the 19,000 in attendance, the media, the coaches and players, those watching on ESPN2 -- but no one’s takeaways are exactly the same.
There will be those who want to talk about the ROC section, which camped out for two days, got into the Marriott Center two hours or so before tip and made themselves a definite factor in the game. How else do you explain the ‘Zags shooting just 1 for 14 from the 3-point line in the second half when facing the ROC end of the floor?
There will be those who will want to regale us with the tale of how they rushed the floor and got a picture with one of their favorite players.
There will be those who refused to watch the game live until they knew what the final was because they couldn’t handle the tension (my wife).
There will be those who want to talk about Zac Seljaas stealing the ball from a Gonzaga player while seated on the floor, passing it up ahead and leading to a Jake Toolson 3-pointer.
There will be students who accepted Mark Pope’s gracious offer to buy them dinner at Cubby’s in Provo late Saturday night. Reports are that a few hundred ROC members took him up on that gesture.
Truly, a special night in Provo.
My son, Devin, asked me why the Cougars have been so successful this year. I thought about the confluence of many different things -- Yoeli Childs coming back, Jake Toolson returning, Alex Barcello being eligible to play right away -- but I think Pope’s greatest gift to this team in his belief in them.
Hey, Pope convinced Kolby Lee that he is a Division I basketball player. There were many times during Lee’s first year in Provo that I wasn’t sure he would ever be one. But darned if Lee wasn’t out there on Saturday playing his butt off on defense, rebounding hard and even draining an open 3-pointer from the top of the key -- against a team with one of the best front lines in the country.
Lee believes. They all believe, and it shows, especially when Gonzaga made a run and cut a 14-point deficit to two in the second half.
I’ve covered many BYU games where I was following the other scores in the West Coast Conference and Gonzaga was playing Saint Mary’s, or Pepperdine, or San Francisco. The ‘Zags would be down early or look vulnerable and I would think, “Hey, tonight might be the night.” Then Gonzaga would shift into another gear and win by a dozen.
It’s happened time and time again.
It didn’t happen against BYU because the sheer will of the Cougars was too strong to break.
‘Zags coach Mark Few told reporters after the game that his team was “out-toughed” in very phase.
“We couldn’t match their intensity, their toughness and sure as heck didn’t match their execution,” Few said.
That’s such an unusual feeling for the Gonzaga program after watching so many WCC teams melt under their pressure.
Think about the streaks Gonzaga had going coming in: 19 straight wins, 40 straight WCC regular-season victories, 39 straight WCC regular-season road wins.
In the standings, it was just one game during a long season. But Saturday was truly monumental.
It’s probably a good thing that BYU doesn’t play again until Saturday. The guys played so hard against Gonzaga on both ends of the floor they probably slept like babies.
The Cougars have a few extra days to prepare for a road trip to Pepperdine, which won’t be easy. At 12-3 in WCC play and 23-7 overall, I think BYU is safely in the NCAA Tournament. A second place finish would give BYU a bye to the semifinals of the WCC Tournament with a couple of opportunities to move up in the NCAA seeding process.
If BYU can get Dalton Nixon back and healthy, a long stay in the NCAA Tournament isn’t out of the question. I saw Seth Davis tweet out that he felt like BYU as a legit Final Four candidate.
Dare to believe, right?
I saw a vanity license plate on Sunday that had me confused.
It was surrounded by a “Dallas Stars” NHL license plate holder. They were Nevada plates with the words, “HSKYS” on them. As far as I know the main college programs in Nevada are the Nevada Wolfpack and UNLV Rebels.
So who are the Huskies?
Late game heroics
The BYU baseball team is 5-3 after winning three of four at Cal Poly this week. The Cougars have struggled with consistency at the plate but how great pitching and a knack for scoring late. Next up is a four-game set at New Mexico, which beat BYU twice in Feb. 15. It's early, but Mike Littlewood's young bucks are showing some nice fight so far.
The BYU men’s volleyball team is rolling through the MPSF schedule (5-0) and is 15-0 overall after sweeping Concordia and USC last week. The Cougars have dropped just one set in winning those five MPSF matches.
The meeting everyone is waiting for is two matches in Honolulu between BYU and No. 1 Hawaii on March 5 and 6.
That’s all for now, but for this: It’s crazy to think about, but even though the Cougars scored 91 points against Gonzaga, I don’t think that was their best offensive game.
The best, in my mind, is yet to come.
Have a great week.