The Cougars fell to the Gonzaga Bulldogs on the road in a 83–63 loss on Thursday night in a sold-out McCarthey Athletic Center.
BYU is now holding onto a 15–6 overall record and a 5–2 record in the West Coast Conference while the Bulldogs have moved up to a 18–2 overall record and an undefeated 5–0 in conference play. Gonzaga has now won the last three meetings against BYU.
Gonzaga was looking to bounce-back after losing to Butler in their previous game, and started with a quick 11–3 lead over BYU and never trailed again.
“Offensively, I think we struggled with their size and how physical the game was early,” BYU Coach Dave Rose said.
Gonzaga dominated BYU in the paint, scoring 42 to BYU’s 28, and outrebounded them 37 to 29. Bulldogs’ forward Kelly Olynyk scored a game-high 26 points on a perfect 9 for 9 from the field and 8 for 8 from the charity stripe to go along with nine rebounds and five assists. Teammate Elias Harris contributed a double-double with 25 points and 10 rebounds.
“Between Harris and Olynyk, they just had a fantastic game,” Rose said. “They were really, really good.”
Gonzaga’s ability to score and defend proved too much for BYU as the Bulldogs shot 56.9 percent from the field and held BYU to 35.6 percent shooting.
“I thought the first half was a real struggle for us and we were frustrated – the game was physical and we didn’t execute our game plan,” Rose said. “In the second half we improved quite a bit and that will help us with our confidence. We just need to come out stronger. We got rushed in the first half and didn’t get the shots we wanted.”
Brandon Davies and Josh Sharp led the team in scoring with 14 points a piece. Sharp scored 10 points in the first half where BYU ended with a season-low 21 points on 25.8 percent shooting and Davies’ 12-point second-half surge that cut Gonzaga’s lead to 59-46 wasn’t enough.
“Our coaches told us they would come out firing but we didn’t respond how we needed to,” Sharp said. “At halftime, the coaches told us if we did the things we needed to we could get back in it and we did chip away a little but it just wasn’t enough.”
The leading scorer in the WCC, Tyler Haws, was held to 0–9 field goals, and scored just 1 point in the game. The Zags didn’t leave a lot of breathing room for Haws to score any points and disrupted his offense.
“They did a good job guarding (Haws),” Rose said. “They were really physical with him. It was tough to get the ball to him where he is comfortable. Every catch he made was in a spot where it was just a little bit out of where he likes, and the rhythm he likes to be in.”
Despite the loss to No. 10 Gonzaga, BYU’s second-half effort showed positive signs for Coach Rose.
“I think what was encouraging was our guys didn’t quit,” Rose said. “They continued to fight, and they battled and there’s a lot more basketball to be played. Hopefully we can build on that and move forward.”
The Cougars will stay on the road and travel to Portland for a 7:30 p.m. PST conference game on Saturday night at the Chiles Center. The game will be broadcast live on ESPNU and KSL Radio.