On senior night for the BYU Cougars the Cougars welcomed the first place Gonzaga Bulldogs to Provo in a game that both teams desperately needed. Both teams were playing to keep their at-large bid hopes alive, with the losing team needing to win the WCC Tournament to go to the NCAA Tournament. With so much on the line, the teams didn't disappoint as they fought hard and provided the fans their moneys worth.
The game started off close as the teams traded leads early. In the first 10 minutes of the game the lead changed six times. Both teams kept it close as the largest lead peaked at four. The Cougars missed numerous opportunities to extend a lead but missed shots and sub 30% three point shooting kept the game close, even with 10 early turnovers by the Bulldogs. With just under nine minutes to go in the half the Cougars opened up a six point lead at 26-20, and that was when the rug was pulled out from under them. Over the next five minutes the Cougars would go scoreless and the Bulldogs would use a 16-1 run to take an eight point lead.
The end of the half would be interesting as a loose ball foul on Zac Seljaas would turn into a Gonzaga technical foul and a six point play for the Cougars. As Seljaas went for the ball, Kyle Dranginis wrapped his arm around the arm of Seljaas and pulled him down. After initially calling just the loose ball foul on Seljaas, the officials reviewed the play and let the loose ball foul stand and added the technical foul on Dranginis. Dranginis would miss the first of a one and one before Chase Fischer hit the two technical shots. After getting the ball from the technical, Fischer promptly hit a three pointer and was fouled. After making the free throw the six point play was complete and pulled the Cougars within two. Gonzaga would hit the final shot of the half to go up 38-34 as both teams missed their final attempts.
The second half started off with Gonzaga taking control early and BYU playing catch-up for the rest of the game. The Cougars would stay close for the first five minutes but once the under 16 minute time-out hit, the Bulldogs began to pull away. For most of the remainder of the half the Cougars were down by seven to ten points and couldn't buy a bucket. Finally the Cougars began to show some life and some key shots pulled them within four at the under four minute timeout.
With the game on the line the Cougars pulled within three with just over two minutes to go. Falling behind by five on Gonzaga free throws, Fischer hit a off screen three pointer to pull within two and only 1:05 left in the game. BYU got the stop they needed but missed two shots that would have tied the game. After a reviewed out of bounds call, the Cougars kept the ball with 17.8 seconds and still a chance to tie or take the lead. Nick Emery would have a wide open three pointer as the defender slipped and fell, but the ball fell off the rim. Seljaas couldn't tip the ball in on the rebound and the Cougars had to foul. After Domantas Sabonis missed both free throws the Cougars went for the win and Emery couldn't bury the three pointer and it went out of bounds. On the inbound pass Chase Fischer was bowled over by Sabonis, fouling him out and giving the Cougars the ball on their own end of the court with 3.5 seconds. With a third opportunity to tie or win, the ball came inbounds to Kyle Collinsworth but he was unable to hold onto it and Gonzaga picked it up. After Emery fouled out the bulldogs hit one of two shots and the desperation shot by Collinsworth didn't come close.
With the win the Bulldogs kept their hopes alive for the NCAA Tournament and the Cougars will likely head to the NIT without winning the conference tournament. In the 71-68 loss the Cougars were led by Fischer who had 18 and Collinsworth who put up 15. Kyle Wiltjer led all scorers with 21 and Sabonis added 15. The Cougars were doomed by their shooting as they ended up shooting 33% from the field and 31% from behind the arc.
The Cougars next game will be in the WCC tournament as the third seed. The times and final seeding will be anounced later.