BYU basketball sets pace, beats top 25 Gonzaga

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The BYU men’s basketball team responded in a big way to Saturday’s loss by playing with passion and urgency as the Cougars ran away with an 83-73 win over No. 24 Gonzaga.

Senior forward Noah Hartsock had his third double-double of the season and the sixth of his career with 24 points and a career high 14 rebounds. Junior forward Brandon Davies also contributed 15 points, making this the 13th straight game that he has scored in double figures, bolstering the dominant inside game that has been the Cougars’ forte this season, even against the bigger post players of the Bulldogs.

“That’s a big win for our team and for our guys,” BYU head coach Dave Rose said. “Every player that went in the game tonight played with real urgency and great effort. Out effort was extreme the whole night and that was our focus going in.”

BYU (19-6, 7-3 West Coast Conference) faced Gonzaga for the first time since last March when the Jimmer Fredette-led Cougars dismantled the Bulldogs in the second round of the NCAA Tournament to reach the Sweet 16 for the first time since 1983. The Bulldogs’ attempts at vengeance fell short as the Cougars finally found their stride from the floor.

The Cougars broke the ice on the rim after four consecutive games of mediocre shooting. They shot 49.3 percent from the floor, including 54.4 percent inside the 3-point line to set the pace and finish strong.

“Our focus going in was to get us at the right pace so we could give ourselves open shots, and hit them,” Rose said. “We had a couple guys that really kind of carried us offensively, but we had a balance with four guys in double figures. I’m proud of the guys. They responded well.”

The Cougars had a change in their starting lineup, inserting freshman guard Anson Winder to accompany freshman Matt Carlino and senior Charles Abouo in the backcourt. Winder played 20 minutes, registering 10 points, five assists and four rebounds. Winder also had three steals in the game, making this the third straight game he has had at least three steals.

“[Winder] played really well,” Carlino said. “Defensively, he’s really good for us. He has active hands, which we need. It made it better for our bench as well, with Brock (Zylstra) coming off the bench.”

The Cougars played a smothering defense, causing Gonzaga (17-4, 7-2) to commit 19 turnovers, 15 of which came in the first half. All but one BYU player had at least one steal, totaling a season-high 14 for the game, which turned into 22 points off turnovers.

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“Our hands were active, our feet were active, we were challenging for rebounds,” Rose said. “That’s when we’re good. Our guys respond to that and build on it and it gives them confidence.”

The Cougar defense forced the Bulldogs to find players other than their normal leaders to score the basketball. Junior forward Elias Harris was held to 7 points on just 1-of-3 shooting, six short of his season average. Freshman guard Kevin Pangos, who averages 13.3 points per game, was held to four.

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“BYU did a good job of just coming out and playing with great energy, great passion,” Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said. “We were rattled, frazzled, played with no poise and no composure. They played us physical and got after us.”

Carlino had a big second half  for the Cougars with 14 points, totaling 18 for the night.

Sophomore forward Sam Dower led the Bulldogs with 15 points, and freshman guard Gary Bell, Jr. added 14.

The Cougars have yet another quick turnaround as they travel to play University of Portland Saturday at 8 pm.

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