BYU was dismantled by conference rival and No. 4 ranked Gonzaga 93-63 in front of a packed Marriott Center crowd in the year’s most anticipated home game of the season. The game marked Gonzaga’s 28th straight conference road win and BYU’s second home loss of the season.
The Cougars started hot with an immediate steal on the game’s first possession. They continued to play solid defense in the opening minutes with five steals in the first half, but were unable to capitalize.
“We started off with a nice steal and a few good defensive stops in the first few minutes, but we just had a really hard time trying to convert,” BYU head coach Dave Rose said. “We’d put the ball up on the rim and it would just seem to fall off, and I think that hurt our confidence early.”
BYU shot a season-low 27.3 percent in the first half compared to Gonzaga’s 51.4 percent mark. The Bulldogs finished the night shooting 58.7 percent and out-rebounding the Cougars 41-31.
“I thought we came out and executed early,” BYU guard TJ Haws said. “We got some good looks but just didn’t make shots that we usually make.”
BYU had no answer for Gonzaga’s stingy defense, with the starting five accounting for just 34 total points altogether. Haws led the charge with 16 points, but the usually dominant forward Yoeli Childs was held to just 12 on the night — more than 10 fewer points than his season average.
“Gonzaga does a great job of messing with your rhythm a little bit, and I thought they did that in the first half,” Haws said. “They’re really good at taking away what you’re good at, so we need to find a way to be the ones to attack and do what we do before they take that away.”
Childs was smothered by a vicious defensive double team all night, crippling the Cougars’ offensive flow rather than opening up opportunities for others.
“They doubled Yoeli two different ways, but for the most part that double team has helped us this year because they’ll have two guys on the ball and we can just skip it out and play on their close out,” Rose said. “I still believe that doubling (Childs) is good for our offense, but it wasn’t tonight.”
Guards Zac Seljaas and Jashire Hardnett added 13 and 7 points respectively off the bench for the Cougars, with Hardnett making his first appearance since Jan. 5.
In addition to excellent shooting, the Bulldogs scored 50 points in the paint, 17 fast-break points and dished out 21 assists.
“They spread the floor and move the ball really well so it’s very hard to defend them,” Haws said. “Tonight they got us pretty well and we just had a bad defensive showing.”
Gonzaga’s elite front court tandem of Brandon Clarke and Rui Hachimura, two favorites for West Coast Conference player of the year, lit up the Cougars for a combined 43 points and 18 rebounds.
“You think you have them in the spots where you want them and they just escape and score,” Rose said.
The Cougars look to bounce back at their next home game against Loyola-Marymount this Saturday at 7 p.m.