The hype for the No. 23 BYU vs. No. 2 Gonzaga matchup could be seen all around Provo in the days leading up to the game. A stretch known as “tent city” emerged outside the Marriott Center doors on the night of Wednesday, Feb. 19, as students set up camp hoping to get the best seats when the arena doors opened days later on Saturday. The trail of tents stretched from the Marriott Center doors to BYU’s administration building with thousands of students waiting to claim their seats.
BYU Sports Nation’s Spencer Linton and Jarom Jordan conducted a special “College Game Day” inside the Marriott Center on the morning of Friday, Feb. 21, giving analysis from the Marriott Center court with hundreds of screaming fans in the background. This event was created in hopes to mimic the popular College Game Day program that ESPN features every Saturday morning during the college football season.
Head coach Mark Pope and members of the BYU men’s basketball team then held a 45-minute “Roc Rally” in the Marriott Center on the night of Friday, Feb. 21, to give thanks to BYU’s ROC student section in addition to getting their adrenaline pumping for the game that would take place almost 24 hours later. Coach Pope and BYU basketball players spoke to the crowd before dismissing them almost 45 minutes later and joining them in the tent line outside of the Marriott Center to give out free pizza and greet fans.
No. 23 BYU took down conference foe and national powerhouse No. 2 Gonzaga 91-78 in the Marriott Center on Feb. 22. This matchup marked the first time since Jimmermania that two ranked teams faced off in Provo.
The first half was a back-and-forth scoring affair in which BYU displayed its prowess by never trailing by more than six points in the half or the game. TJ Haws proved his importance for BYU early and often as he scored six of the Cougars first 10 points, including drawing two crucial charging calls and creating multiple turnovers. Yoeli Childs and a bloodied Jake Toolson — the other two members of BYU’s “Big Three” — filled the score sheet with their names, tallying 15 and nine first half points, respectively, while Haws finished the opening frame with 11.
The Cougars took a 27-25 lead after a Zac Seljaas 3-pointer with 6:11 remaining in the first half, and this lead would never be erased as BYU led the Zags for the remainder of the game. BYU would go on to take an eight-point lead into the locker rooms, leading No. 2 Gonzaga 46-38.
Second Half and Celebration
Childs led BYU out of the locker rooms with a quick 2-point jumper before Gonzaga converted on a pair of baskets to cut BYU’s lead to six. BYU quickly responded and led by as many as 14 points in the second half before the Gonzaga offense — an offense that is considered by many to be the best in the country — took aim at the BYU lead.
No. 2 Gonzaga drew within a single basket with just 7:52 remaining in the game after BYU got itself into foul trouble. The BYU crowd, with almost 5000 members of that crowd having waited in line outside of the Marriott Center for up to four days, did everything it could to help BYU keep its lead. The ROC section made every shot difficult for the Zags as the noise level in the Marriott Center often drowned out the on-air commentators.
BYU would show the strength of its offense over the ensuing minutes of the game, never allowing Gonzaga to get closer than five points to the BYU lead with less than five minutes remaining in the historic matchup. Childs continued to lead BYU’s scoring, finishing with a game-high 28 points including a thunderous slam to add the finishing touches on a 91-78 BYU win.
BYU fans could be seen rushing towards the nearest court entrances with the final minutes of the game winding down. The Marriott Center court completely disappeared when the final buzzer went off as thousands of BYU students and fans rushed the court to celebrate with the men’s basketball team.
Lyrics from Post Malone filled the speakers as BYU seniors took the floor to celebrate their time at BYU. Those same lyrics proved to be a most fitting medley as No. 23 BYU took down No. 2 Gonzaga.
“Now they always say congratulations, worked so hard forgot how to vacation. They ain’t never had the dedication, people hatin’, say we changed and look we made it, yeah, we made it.”