BYU guard Alex Barcello (13) drives the ball as guard Te'Jon Lucas (3) sets a screen against Gonzaga guard Rasir Bolton (45) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022, in Spokane, Wash. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)

BYU men’s hoops fades late, falls 110-84 to No. 2 Gonzaga

There’s a reason Gonzaga is ranked as the second-best team in the nation, which BYU learned the hard way in a 110-84 manhandling from the Bulldogs Thursday night.

“They’re really good, and they shot the ball extremely well tonight,” head coach Mark Pope said. “We’ve got to be good enough to have answers for them, and tonight we didn’t.”

Gonzaga’s well-oiled offensive machine couldn’t be stopped, shooting an eye-popping 69% from the field with 54 points in the paint and 28 total assists. The Cougars jumped out to an early 7-0 start and scored an impressive 49 points in the first half, but Gonzaga’s fast-paced excellence in transition quickly gassed BYU to the point of no return on both sides of the floor.

“We came in knowing it would be a fight, but it’s impossible for us to win when we give up that many points,” forward Caleb Lohner said. “We’ve gotta learn to guard.”

Alex Barcello led the Cougars with 19 points and four assists in the contest, hitting four 3-pointers to lead BYU’s 44.8% clip from behind the arc. Following his admitted disdain for Gonzaga in Tuesday’s media availability, Lohner posted possibly his finest performance of the season, scoring 17 points with five rebounds and a pair of threes amid a steady downpour of boos from the Bulldog faithful.

“There’s good takeaways for myself after this game, but as a team we’ve got to get better,” Lohner said.

Noted Cougar killer Drew Timme abused BYU’s defense all night, scoring 30 points on an absurd 13-of-14 shooting line.

“In the transition post he was really tough for us,” Pope said. “We didn’t have an answer for him.”

Julian Strawther and Andrew Nembhard combined for 42 points for the Bulldogs, while possible first overall draft selection Chet Holmgren added 12 points and seven boards. The Zags forced 14 BYU turnovers, capitalizing on each interruption with 28 points from takeaways.

With the loss, the Cougars fall to 2-1 in WCC play and 14-4 overall, heading for another road battle with conference foe San Francisco this Saturday.

“We’ve gotta mentally be able to turn this one off and turn it on (for San Francisco) to get a win,” Lohner said.

“We’re gonna have to dig deep and find ourselves,” Pope said.

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