For the BYU Cougars, tonight's game in Spokane carried a weight that even contestants of the Biggest Loser wouldn't trade for. It represented an opportunity to play the #3 team in the nation and the class of the conference. Winning at Gonzaga is something that is very difficult to do. No West Coast Conference team had done it in over 4 years. On top of all of that, the group think about the mind and will of the NCAA selection committee required the Cougars to win in the Kennel. Where the past 41 opponents failed marking the longest home court winning streak in the country. A place where the Cougars have lost by 15, 20, 11 since joining the WCC.
The Cougars needed to shoot like Annie Oakley, rebound like David Spade, defend like Scott Sterling and show physicality that would make Olivia Newton-John sit on the edge of her seat. They did it. All of it.
The Cougars pounced on the Gonzaga Bulldogs
to a quick 11-2 lead. The Zags couldn't locate the hoop as they started 1-10 from the field. After a well placed Mark Few timeout, a Kevin Pangos
3-pointer sparked an astounding 9-10 shooting. Despite this, BYU still maintained a lead due to 6-8 shooting from 3.
A critical moment in the half featured a lineup void of Tyler Haws or Kyle Collinsworth. This group played for nearly 2 minutes. They started their shift with a 6 point-lead. Skyler Halford hit a couple of buckets, including a three as Byron Wesley crashed into him. Halford would convert a 4-point play that would escort Kyle Collinsworth back onto the floor and this stretch saw the Cougars extend their lead to 8.
The final 10 minutes of the 1st half saw the Cougars and Bulldogs trade buckets until the final 90 seconds where the Zags close the gap marked by a last possession mid-range fadeaway by Kevin Pangos. 36-36 at the halftime break.
The Cougars were on their way. They were doing everything to a level that would allow them an opportunity to actually pull off the win. Kyle Collinsworth led the way with 9 points, 4 rebounds, and 2 assists. Skylar Halford added 9 points from the bench. BYU won the rebounding battle by 4, 22-18.
The 2nd half saw two developments. The first was a continuation of the Cougars working their way in front. A balanced effort hallmarked by shooting from Chase Fischer and answered prayers for Corbin Kaufusi.
The second saw a total change in the refereeing of the game. Suddenly, the game went from "letting the players decide this" to "everything is a foul." This led to both teams being in the bonus with 12 minutes left in the game. Also, Gonzaga's Byron Wesley and Gary Bell Jr. had 4 fouls with 8:30 left. Leading to Mark Few placing Kevin Pangos on Tyler Haws.
The Cougars carried a 10 point lead with 6 minutes remaining. BYU had played 34 minutes of winning basketball.
It had been 34 years since BYU had beaten a team ranked 3 or higher. When Danny Ainge's 37 points killed UCLA's dreams in the round of 32 in the 1981 NCAA tournament
The Zags stormed back in the form of Domantas Sabonas. He scored in the post and hit a couple free throws. Byron Wesley gathered an offensive rebound and scored. Cougars only score a free throw from Halford. 5 point game. 3 minutes left.
Pangos forced a steal, then in transition Kyle Collinsworth poked it away. Halford collected the loose ball, dished to Winder who drove the baseline, then found Collinsworth on the weak-side who laid it in with harm and sunk the and one. 8 point lead. 2 minutes left.
Gary Bell Jr. scores his first points of the night with a deep 3. Back to 5 points. 69-64. Timeout Dave Rose.
90 seconds left. Crowd noise caused the Cougars to fail to recognize the shot clock. Turnover.
Gonzaga's Byron Wesley is fouled by Kyle Collinsworth and sunk both free throws. 69-66 BYU with 50 seconds left. BYU survived tremendous pressure while working the shot clock. Kyle Collinsworth drove the lane and missed his floater, but collected his own shot and put it back in the hoop. 5 point lead.
Kevin Pangos missed a three pointer, but Gonzaga rebounds and Kyle Dranginis got fouled by Kyle Collinsworth. Dranginis hits both free throws. 3 point game.
Kyle Collinsworth fouled out. He finished the game with 20 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block. A great, great, great performance.
Tyler Haws is fouled immediately on the inbound. Haws, the all-time leader in free throw percentage at BYU, missed both foul shots. Rebound Gonzaga. Frank Barley IV fouled Eric McClellan before the Zags can get a 3 pointer off. 2.8 seconds. McClellan hits the first. Tried to miss the 2nd, but made it. Gonzaga is down 1 but is forced to foul.
The big free throws came on the shoulders of freshman Ryan Andrus. Andrus calmly connected on both free throws.
Gonzaga's Kyle Wiltjer tried to get the Dellavadagger, but missed.
Relief. BYU wins 73-70.
BYU collects a signature win in the 2014-15 season. Not only does this bolster the Cougars NCAA tournament profile, but this one goes down as a marquee victory in the history of the school.
The blue-and-white heroes in this game are countless. Every single player BYU placed on the floor played their part in the win. One thing is for certain, BYU CAN WIN THE BIG ONE!