Eric Mika scored 29 points as the BYU Cougars overcame a 16 point first half deficit to pull off an absolute stunner by beating #1 and undefeated Gonzaga in Spokane for the third consecutive season. T.J. Haws added 17 points on 5/9 from beyond the arc, Elijah Bryant added 14 points, and sparingly used Corbin Kaufusi made the key put-back layup to ice the game in the final minute. Nigel Williams-Goss was the only Gonzaga player who scored more than 12 points, as he finished with 19.
BYU looked shell-shocked to start the game, as Gonzaga got out to an early 18-2 lead behind the post play of Przemek Karnowski and the athleticism of Johnathan Williams around the rim. After forcing a few early shots, the BYU offense settled down, and they were able to work themselves back into the game behind hot shooting from Elijah Bryant and T.J. Haws beyond the arc and some good mid-range shooting from Eric Mika. One highlight from the first half was when Mika converted on an up-and-under high arching floater after being previously pushed backwards on a couple of running hook shots. BYU cut the lead down to one point at the under-4 media timeout, but a couple of questionable foul calls (BYU committed 13 in the first half compared to 7 for GU) on the Cougars helped Gonzaga push the lead to 41-35 at halftime.
The Zags opened up a 10 point lead early in the second half, but the Cougars rode Eric Mika and his versatility to make another comeback. Mark Few’s technical foul with 12:13 left in the game was key because it woke up the sleep-walking Nick Emery. Emery started the game 0/7 from the field, missed the first technical free throw, but made the second. He then proceeded to hit back-to-back three pointers to cut the Gonzaga lead to one within the next two minutes.
The game went back and forth in a one possession game for most of the final ten minutes, but Mika hit the go-ahead jumper to give BYU a 73-71 lead with 1:06 remaining. After a Josh Perkins turnover for Gonzaga, Corbin Kaufusi (in for Yoeli Childs who had fouled out), rebounded a T.J. Haws miss and converted a layup to give BYU a 75-71 lead with 23 seconds left. Perkins turned it over again on the ensuing possession to cough the game away for Gonzaga. BYU had improbably earned their third consecutive victory in Spokane and spoiled the Bulldogs’ undefeated season.
Even if BYU hadn’t won this game, it would still have been impressive to see this young team show the grit and resolve to come back from a double-digit deficit in both halves, and play the #1 team in the country more closely than anyone else has this season. While an NCAA at-large bid is still entirely off the table, hosting an NIT game is not. And if BYU can beat Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga in consecutive games in Las Vegas, they could go to the Big Dance, which seems much less of a pipe dream than it did before this game.