LAS VEGAS — With the chance to secure a bid in the NCAA tournament with a West Coast Conference tournament championship, the BYU men’s basketball team came up well short, after a 77-58 semifinal loss to Gonzaga on March 3. Now the Cougars must wait a week to find out their postseason plans.
The Cougars’ postseason fate rests with the NCAA selection committee to determine whether the Cougars deserve an NCAA tournament berth and the seeding they would receive. The Cougars and the University of Kansas are the only two teams to reach 25 wins in each of the last six seasons.
“I’m proud of this team,” Rose said. “They’ve overcome a lot. They’re resilient in times of challenges, and we’ve been consistent all year long in terms of finding ways to win games. I’m proud of this group of guys. This team deserves to be in the NCAA tournament.”
The men’s team will wait until March 11 for Selection Sunday and the official word on their postseason options.
Gonzaga will play top-seeded Saint Mary’s for the WCC championship on March 5, while the BYU women’s team will play Gonzaga for their respective championship.
On March 3, the BYU men’s basketball team found itself in a hole early and was never able to climb its way out of it, as the Cougars lost to Gonzaga in the semifinal round of the West Coast Conference Tournament.
The Cougars started slow, and took a while to get themselves into a rhythm. By the time they found their footing, the Bulldogs already had a double-digit lead, and Gonzaga continued with its aggressive defense to not let the lead drop below 10 the rest of the game.
“I thought that Gonzaga played outstanding,” BYU head coach Dave Rose said. “They came out from the very tip aggressive and played with a lot of emotion and executed very well. Gonzaga was really good for 40 minutes. That’s what it came down to.”
The Bulldogs jumped out to an early 19-5 lead by using precise shooting and swarming defense. They shot 55.6 percent from the floor and 50 percent from 3 in the half, while limiting the Cougars to just 32 percent from the floor.
“We were getting shots but just rushing it a little bit,” junior forward Brandon Davies said. “That’s what happens when you get down the way we did.”
Freshman guard Kevin Pangos led the Bulldogs with 30 points, going 10-for-17 from the floor and 5-of-9 from 3-point range. Junior forward Elias Harris had 10 points and 15 rebounds in the win.
“That’s a great win for us,” Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said. “We just beat a really good basketball team tonight. For us to shoot 54 percent, and outrebound a really good rebounding team. We were able to execute the gameplan tonight.”
The Cougars were led by four players in double figures despite the loss. Davies led the team with 17 points, while senior guard Charles Abouo, freshman guard Matt Carlino and senior forward Noah Hartsock added 12 points apiece. Abouo had a double-double as he was also able to grab 10 rebounds.
BYU was able to close the gap to 10 points early in the second half, with six straight points from Davies, but the Bulldogs matched them basket for basket after that, keeping the lead in double figures.
“We stayed aggressive,” Few said. “Sometimes we shoot a lot of 3s, and that leads to swings in momentum. Our defense was consistent all night. With the exception of the first three or four minutes of that second half when Brandon (Davies) was kind of taking it to us, we limited their easy shots and rebounded the ball.”