The BYU men’s basketball team erased an 11-point deficit in the second half, but never took the lead against the No. 2 Gonzaga Bulldogs on Thursday night and lost 65–70.
The Cougars battled to the last second in a game that had seventy tents set up in front of the Marriott Center and thousands of fans waiting in line hours before tip-off.
Brock Zylstra said it came to a point where he couldn’t hear himself think.
“Our fans are great,” Brandon Davies added. “There were points in the game where we couldn’t hear a thing. We got nothing but love and respect for our fans. They’re always there for us.”
BYU coach Dave Rose said his team’s energy and urgency was apparent throughout the game and helped defensively, but had the players rushing and not executing offensively.
After playing from behind for the first 36 minutes of the game, Zylstra’s back-to-back threes and Craig Cusick’s three-pointer at the end of a possession had the Marriott Center erupting. Davies’ free throws tied them at 60 points with 4:18 left to play, but BYU was unable to get over the hump to have their first lead of the game.
“It wasn’t one guy, or one mistake,” Rose said. “Everyone had chances… We fought really hard together and we competed really hard together. We made crucial stops at times, we made big baskets, but when it came down to make that play to win the game, we’ve come up a little short.”
Despite the hard fought game, credit was given to the Bulldogs who will likely be ranked No. 1 in the nation next week. Rose commended Gonzaga’s talent, its depth and an excellent coach in Mark Few.
BYU attempted 10 more shots, made one more field goal and out-rebounded a tough Gonzaga team, but came up short down the stretch.
“A missed rebound here, couple missed shots here and it could’ve been a different story, but give Coach Few and his guys credit,” Rose said. “They came in here and did what they had to do to win.”
The Cougars did a better job on guarding Gonzaga’s forwards Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris, who combined for 30 points and 12 rebounds, but still had trouble when Davies was sent to the bench after two fouls with 18 minutes to go in the first half.
Rose said Davies handled the foul trouble well, but Davies knows he has to be smarter.
Tyler Haws finished with a game-high 19 points and six rebounds while Davies recorded his 22nd double-double of his career with 12 points and 11 rebounds. Seniors Cusick and Zylstra scored 10 points apiece in their last home game with big shots.
There were no moral victories for BYU, but was encouraged by the way it competed as a group the past few games and hopes to play the Zags in Las Vegas.
“We’re playing more as a team,” Zylstra said. “We’re playing better as a whole… two losses don’t reflect that, but we know what we’re doing. We know how we’re playing.”
Although “Senior Night” was spoiled by a loss, Rose couldn’t be more proud of his seniors.
“I feel for those guys, those three seniors who played their hearts out tonight,” Rose said. “You saw basically what they’ve meant to our program in kind of a nutshell, in a 40-minute game. These guys are competitors, they’re great teammates and they play for each other… These guys have been remarkable for our program and they’re going to be really successful in life in whatever they do.”
BYU will travel to play their last game of the season against Loyola Marymount on Saturday. Tip-off will be at 8 p.m PST and the game will be broadcast live on ESPNU and KSL radio.