Gonzaga Survives Wild Finish To Beat BYU

By Kevin Sweeney

3 chances. 

Those words will stick with BYU fans for awhile after tonight’s matchup with Gonzaga. The Cougars had 3 possessions in the final 30 seconds with chances to tie or take the lead, but were unable to capitalize, falling in heartbreaking fashion to Gonzaga 71-68 on Saturday night in Provo.  

The game went back and forth in the first half, but a 14-0 run allowed the Zags to take a 3 point lead into halftime. Senior forward Kyle Wiltjer keyed the run for Gonzaga, scoring 6 points during the stretch en route to a half-leading 13 points. 

In the second half, Gonzaga began to distance themselves, pushing their lead to 12 with just under 10 minutes to go in regulation. However, the game changed in BYU’s favor after the under-8 media timeout. The Cougars slowly chipped away at the deficit, eventually cutting the Gonzaga lead to just 2 with 1:05 to go. 

The final moments of the game were absolutely wild. The Cougars got a stop on D, but freshman guard Nick Emery missed a 3 and freshman forward Zac Seljaas couldn’t get a tip-in to fall. The Cougars fouled forward Domantas Sabonis, who missed both free throws to keep BYU alive. Emery got a clean look from 3, but the shot rimmed out, and the game appeared over. But Sabonis pushed off trying to get open for the inbounds pass, fouling out of the game and giving BYU life. The Cougars tried to inbound the ball underneath the basket to senior guard Kyle Collinsworth, but he was unable to handle the pass, and the Zags escaped with the win. 

Collinsworth expressed excitement for a potential rematch with the Zags in the WCC Tournament next weekend, saying “We’re going to be MORE hungry because we lost tonight.”

However, Gonzaga as plenty to be enthusiastic about going into the conference tournament. The emergence of sophomore guard Silas Melson could be just the extra piece they need to put themselves over the top. Already having one of the best low-post tandems in the country in Wiltjer and Sabonis, the rise of another contributing guard would be huge. After a career-high 18 points in their last game, Melson added 13 points tonight. 

Both teams go in as contenders into next weekend’s conference tournament. BYU will go in as the 3rd seed, while Gonzaga will own the 2nd seed. The tournament appears to be all-important to both teams, as BYU will need to win it to reach the NCAA Tournament. Gonzaga could be on the outside looking in if they stumble in the conference tournament too. Expect a wild weekend in Las Vegas. 

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