PROVO, Utah — The following notes are from BYU's 86-69 loss to Gonzaga on Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021, at McCarthey Athletic Center.
ALL-TIME SERIES RESULTS: Gonzaga leads 19-5
Gonzaga started the game on a 20-2 run in the first seven minutes of the game, before points from Spencer Johnson and Matt Haarms got the BYU offense going.
Significant Scoring Run
Midway the first half, BYU went on a 24-19 scoring run, decreasing Gonzaga's lead to only 13 (39-26).
Second Half Effort and Defense
The Cougars outscored the Bulldogs 40-34 in the second half. BYU’s defensive efforts kept the Zags to only 86 points. Their season low is 85 and game into the game averaging 95 points per game. BYU held Gonzaga to fewer points than Kansas, West Virginia, Iowa or Virginia did.
For the second consecutive game and third time this season, Lohner had a career high in points. He registered 11 against Weber State on Dec. 23, and 13 tonight against Gonzaga.
Haarms matched Lohner with 13 points to co-lead the team in scoring.
Johnson had a career high in rebounds tonight with seven. His previous high was six against Utah on Dec. 12.
Notable career highs/career firsts
Career-high points: Lohner (13)
Career-high rebounds: Johnson (7)
COACH AND PLAYER QUOTES
Head coach Mark Pope
On how the game started ...
“We talked about it from the beginning — they have a chance to be a generational team, and they’ve certainly started out the season that way. What they’ve done to those top 20 teams and everybody else, they’re really difficult to handle, and we started really poorly. We turned the ball over five of the first eight possessions. Their length really affected us. I did a poor job getting our energy right to start the game. I’m not sure exactly why. We’re trying to figure that out right now. It wasn’t that our guys weren’t excited to play, but the moment for this group was just too big for us to start. The length, athleticism wasn’t surprising, but it’s a little different when you feel it, and we did not respond well early on. We kind of dug ourselves a hole. I was really proud of the guys. At no point of the game did they walk away, and that is not consolation for losing, that is the DNA of a team that has a chance to be really, really good. It was a tough night. We clearly didn’t start out well against the best team in the country, and for the guys to stay locked in, trying to compete, and trying to get better, that’s who we are, and what we have to do, and we will.”
On what transpired after cutting the Gonzaga lead to 13
“We cut it to 13 and then man, we just got in mud again. You know, when we cut it to 13, it was like, 'hey, there's a breath in here, and we can actually find a way,' but I don't think we scored for the next handful of possessions. I'm not good enough yet, and we're not good enough right now, to handle the Zags, the way they were tonight, the way we played. We've got to get better, we're super hungry to get better and we will.”
On how he approaches teams with multiple offensive stars
“I can't remember the last time there were three players on the same team all up the Wooden Award. Maybe there have been, I've just never heard of it. We just failed so miserably to execute. My communication to my team was not good, but we wanted to start inside-out and bet there the whole game. The Zags were averaging 65 points in the paint every single game, and they're certainly capable shooters. They're all very capable shooters, but where they're making their living right now, and why the game is so easy for them every single night, is because they make their living at the rim. They're long and athletic in the backcourt, and their frontcourt guys are really skilled. So we kind of focused on hey, we have to manage transition and we have to have a focus on protecting this rim. So we kind of tricked up all of our schematics to start there and then figure out the game. Sure enough, you know, of the first 16 points, I think 13 of them were straight at the rim. So we just didn't execute well.”
On the play of Richard Harward, Caleb Lohner, and Gideon George
“Those are probably our three best athletes, and they fit in the game. This is a game that made a lot of sense for Gideon. I was really proud of Caleb for the most part — the game was a little bit slower for him. He’s making really good strides. Rich didn’t have a lot of headway on the glass. He was still a physical and somewhat-effective presence down low. Those three guys are coming. We have a really good team, and we’re going to get better. We still have a huge upside, and it’s really encouraging to see those guys making big strides. I’m excited about all three of them, and what they can add to this team. Spencer Johnson wasn’t great on the offensive end, but he changed the tenor of the game for us defensively by being a disruptor on the floor. He helped us make a little bit of a recovery gasp in the first half. You can see the youth of Gideon and Caleb, both of them, burned on back-cuts, that’s going to be the last part to come for them, but I thought they were super effective, and I am super proud of them. Sometimes as a young player you can get totally distracted when you get blitzed to start a game against a great team, and those guys found a way to stay dialed in, and I was super proud of them for that.”
How difficult it was to have two weeks off
“I do think we got better over the last couple weeks. [Gonzaga] is really, really good. I’m not trying to take anything away from the Zags, but they didn’t get the best BYU team in the first 10 minutes of this game, and that’s my job. I do feel like we got better over the last couple weeks, but sometimes it’s difficult to simulate a team like this — they’re really good. I’m really excited about getting this out of the way the first game of conference because it just shows us clearly and glaringly areas where we have to get better, and you like that, because it gives you a benchmark that’s real, and tangible, that you can shoot for, and work towards every day, and talk about it, and I have a locker room full of guys that’ll do that. They’re not going to walk away from here crushed and discouraged. They’re certainly disappointed, but they’re really focused on getting better, and they will. Brutal night for us, no doubt, incredibly disappointing, but we’ll use it to make us way better.”
On the injury to Wyatt Lowell
“We’re not optimistic. I’ve been super excited about force-feeding him into the game, and I had a feeling tonight was going to be a night where he was going to go in with his size, and length, and ability to shoot the ball. We put in a little play list for him that we had hoped to get to tonight, then the game went sideways, and I hope the doctors’ guesses are wrong. It is certainly discouraging, and we’ll see how it goes.”
Forward Richard Harward
On the primary scouting points of Gonzaga
“The thing we were really focusing on were the transition defense and rebounding the ball. We felt like we had larger, more physical bigs, so we could be a little more aggressive in the post. We need to do a better job protecting the ball in transition defense.”
On what the two-week break from games was like
“It was an emotional rollercoaster. Coach Burgess had the Pepperdine and San Diego scouts, so he had us prepped, and we were ready to go, but it was like this game didn’t happen, onto the next game, then that game gets cancelled, so we were just like 'when are we finally going to play a game?' Then we got the Zags in 48 hours. It was just an emotion, up-and-down roller coaster. We should’ve brought more energy tonight.”
What it’s like playing as a reserve
“I know why Coach Pope is putting me in the game. He’s putting me in the game to get rebounds and get stops. If a bucket comes, a bucket comes. So when I get off the bench, I’m thinking of those two things: getting a stop, taking a charge, or getting the ball and rebounding, because I feel like once I get that, it’s an energy boost, and we can move on.”
On the play of Gideon George and Caleb Lohner
“Gideon George is a legend. I love that guy. He works so hard every single day, and he's just got a different play style from most of the guys on our team, so it kind of throws a wrench into everything the other team was kind of prepping for. Caleb Lohner is a freak of nature. That guy is unreal. He's one of my roommates, and he's just got the best, most positive personality. He always just brings a ton of energy when he's on the court.”
On the big’s success in the paint late in the game
“The last couple minutes Pope kind of drew that play up. The objective was to make the other guard go over, pull the other defending guard out of the way so there's less bottom help. And then that way, the bigs can get a little bit more space to work in the post. And like I said before, our guards are great shooters so not a lot of teams are going to double down or monster us, so it opens up a lot of space for me, Matt and Caleb to go to work down there.”
On Wyatt Lowell’s injury
“That broke my heart, man. He's one of my favorite teammates. I was with him at UVU. I'm not gonna lie, I got teary eyed when I got in that locker room because that dude is like a brother, and watching him get hurt like that sucks.”