The BYU Cougars men's basketball team looked to match the feat of the women's team getting to the WCC championship game late Monday night against a familiar foe in the form of the Gonzaga Bulldogs. At first, it seemed as if the Zags might cruise by the Cougars as they opened up a 10 point lead on the back of Cougar-killer Kyle Wiltjer. The Cougars battled back to tie the game in high scoring first half. Nick Emery, Kyle Collinsworth, and Zac Seljaas powered the Cougars to a 47-47 tie at the half.
The second half was more of the same from both teams. Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis pacing the Zags while Collinsworth and Emery keeping the Cougars in the game. For the first ten minutes of the second half, Gonzaga seemed to be getting whatever they wanted inside with BYU having to respect the frontcourt of Sabonis and Wiltjer. This combined with BYU missing multiple jump shots made it seem as if the game was getting out of hand. Then BYU switched to a 1-3-1 zone defense which really confused Gonzaga and allowed the Cougars to get into transition and the jumpers started falling for BYU to make the game a back and forth affair.
The critical play was with only about forty seconds left in the game, Gonzaga was forced to try and beat the shot clock with a rushed 3. The shot was missed and a scrum ensued for the rebound, Wiltjer was able to pop the ball loose towards a teammate who gained possession. BYU was forced to foul and the ensuing freethrows pushed the lead to six points.
Gonzaga was lead to victory by Kyle Wiltjer who had 29 points and 8 rebounds while Sabonis had 18 points and 14 rebounds. Two other Zags scored in double figures, Eric McClellan with 15 and Josh Perkins with 17. BYU was lead by a great performance by Nick Emery with 27 points, Collinsworth had another great overall game with 16 points, 11 rebounds, and 6 assists, and Chase Fischer ended up with 15 points.
With the Cougars loss the continuation of the season is going to come down to the Selection Committee on Selection Sunday to see if they can sneak in to the NCAA Tournament. If not, which may be the most likely scenario, BYU will have to wait to hear from the NIT Tournament.