Cougars drop hard-fought contest to No. 1 Gonzaga

Ari Davis
TJ Haws drives towards the net in the game against Gonzaga. Haws scored 29 points in the loss. (Ari Davis)

The BYU men’s basketball team dropped a hard-fought game to No. 1 Gonzaga 85-75 at a sold-out Marriott Center on Thursday night.

TJ Haws led the Cougars with 29 points while Eric Mika recorded his 14th double-double of the season with 15 points and 10 rebounds.

“It was a hard fought game,” said BYU head coach Dave Rose. “Gonzaga’s a good team. I think our guys competed hard, played hard. They competed. That’s a good sign for a young team.”

The Marriott Center was rocking at tip off and nerves showed for both teams. Gonzaga jumped out to a quick 6-2 lead before BYU fought back to within one point at 9-8.

A 20-4 Gonzaga run starting at the 14:27 mark in the first half put the Bulldogs up 29-12 after those tight first few minutes. Gonzaga hit four 3-point shots during the run.

Three-point shooting was the difference in the first half, as Gonzaga connected on six 3-point shots while BYU went 1-for-7.

“I think in the first half we got a lot of great looks, they just didn’t fall for us,” Haws said. “We executed a little bit better on offense in the second half, and then those shot started falling for us.”

Gonzaga took a 42-26 lead into the half, and the raucous Marriott Center crowd fell silent.

BYU opened the second half with a 9-3, pumping life back into the crowd and cutting the lead to single digits.

“We had a great crowd,” Rose said. “It was terrific, probably as good as we’ve ever had, as far as wanting to cheer our guys on and get them going.”

Haws agreed with his coach.

“You couldn’t help but smile when you heard that crowd get that loud,” Haws said.

Despite that encouragement, the Cougars could not find a way to take a lead as Gonzaga answered every comeback attempt.

With the lead cut to eight just four minutes into the second half, back-to-back buckets by Nigel Williams-Goss and Przemek Karnowski pushed Gonzaga’s lead back to 12.

Williams-Goss then scored nine straight points after an Elijah Bryant 3-point play to push the Bulldog’s advantage to 18.

“Williams-Goss just controlled that game,” Rose said. “He just had a pace to him and a confidence to him, to where every time we would make a run, he had a pretty good answer.”

Overall, BYU cut the lead to eight four times in the second half, with the last coming at the 2:42 mark.

With 2:02 to play, Mika drained a jump shot following a Williams-Goss miss to bring BYU within six.

“All week, coach (Rose) instilled in us just to compete, no matter what the score was,” said BYU forward Elijah Bryant. “It was just natural to just continue to compete.”

The energy in the Marriott Center was short lived, as Gonzaga responded with seven consecutive free throws to quash the final Cougar comeback.

Emery had a tough night after battling an illness over the last few days. He finished 0-for-4 from 3-point distance, scoring just two points before fouling out with 19 seconds to play.

The loss drops BYU to 16-8 overall, 7-4 in conference play. This Saturday, the Cougars will look to rebound from the loss as they take on Portland at home. Tip off is set for 7pm MST.

Earlier on the night, the BYU women’s basketball team suffered an 87-52 loss at Gonzaga.

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