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The BYU men’s basketball team sent out its seniors in disappointing fashion on Saturday night, losing to Gonzaga University 71-68. The Cougars and Bulldogs split the season series 1-1.
“It’s tough, but there’s always positives,” said senior guard Kyle Collinsworth. “It makes us more hungry. When we play them again, we’re going to be hungry.”
The Cougars cut back a nine-point deficit to head into halftime 38-34, propelled by six of Chase Fischer’s team-high 18 points in about seven seconds.
Gonzaga built a 10-point lead that BYU whittled down to just two points with 1:05 left in the game. A Fischer 3-pointer tightened the score to 70-68.
BYU head coach Dave Rose said the difference was just a couple of plays.
“Being down 10 (points), we battled back, got in a position where we just needed to make a couple plays,” Rose said. “Make a couple plays and things are a lot different right now.”
Both called and uncalled fouls in the final minute gave Gonzaga the win with a final score of 71-68.
With 3.5 seconds left to play, Zac Seljaas attempted to inbound the ball to Collinsworth. Collinsworth couldn’t haul the pass in because he was held by a Gonzaga player.
He didn’t mince words after the game.
“I was held,” he said.
The Bulldogs controlled the pace of the game and created a tempo slower than the Cougars prefer.
BYU edged Gonzaga in rebounds, but poor shooting forced the Cougars to constantly fight back throughout the game. The Bulldogs outshot the Cougars 47 percent to 33 percent en route to a hard-fought victory.
“(I) feel for my guys,” Rose said. “They fought hard. It wasn’t our best game, but we battled really hard.”
With the loss, BYU finished the season with a record of 22-9 overall and 13-5 in West Coast Conference play.
Collinsworth had 15 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists. Freshmen guards Nick Emery and Seljaas added 11 and nine points, respectively.
Three seniors played their final game as Cougars in the Marriott Center. Nate Austin, Fischer and Collinsworth were escorted by their parents to halfcourt and welcomed to a standing ovation by a deafening crowd.
The Cougars remain optimistic looking forward, despite the disappointing loss.
Fischer said they would “rally the troops” and “stay positive.”
BYU plans to take revenge on the Bulldogs in the upcoming WCC tournament.
“We’re going to have to beat them again if we’re going to get what we really want,” Rose said.
Complete WCC tournament seeding will be announced Sunday, but BYU will enter as the No. 3 seed and play the No. 6 seed Santa Clara. The WCC tournament begins Friday, March 4 and the championship will be played Tuesday, March 8 in Las Vegas.