PROVO, Utah – BYU came back from an 11-point second half deficit to tie the score late but could not overcome the No. 2 team in the nation, losing to Gonzaga 70-65 Thursday night at the Marriott Center.
The game came down to the wire, with the Bulldogs leaving the door open until BYU's last possession. Trailing 68-65 with six seconds to play, BYU inbounded the ball to senior guard Craig Cusick, who was fouled before he could attempt a game-tying 3-pointer. Cusick missed the front end of the one-and-one and the Bulldogs closed the door with a pair of free throws.
“I’m really proud of our guys; I thought we competed really hard," head coach Dave Rose said. "I thought our guys put us in a position where we could have won the game, but you have to give Gonzaga credit. They came in here and did what they had to do to win."
Tyler Haws and Gonzaga's Kelly Olynyk led all players in scoring with 19 apiece. Haws was 8 of 18 from the floor and grabbed six rebounds. Senior Brandon Davies was in foul trouble for much of the game, but still managed a double-double with 12 points, 11 rebounds and three assists.
Davies picked up his second foul less than three minutes into the game. Freshman forward Bronson Kaufusi came in for Davies and scored the first basket for BYU on a putback off a Cusick miss with 16:52 to go in the first half.
Senior Brock Zylstra's 3-pointer with 13:10 to play in the opening period pulled the Cougars within three at 12-9. Gonzaga guard Gary Bell made his second triple of the game a minute later to push the Bulldogs' lead back to six. A high-low pass from Olynyk to Sam Dower for a layup put the score at 17-10 with 11:47 until the half.
After a BYU timeout, Haws made two consecutive 18-foot jumpers to pull the Cougars within five at 19-14. With 9:35 to go in the half, Bell pushed Gonzaga's lead back to eight with his third 3-pointer of the period.
After Przemek Karnowski missed a pair of free throws for the Bulldogs, Zylstra found Davies under the basket for a reverse dunk that put the score at 23-18 in favor of the visitors.
With 6:57 to play in the half, Davies found Matt Carlino for a 3-pointer on the left wing. BYU retained possession after the basket because of a Gonzaga foul away from the ball. After a missed shot and offensive rebound for the Cougars, Haws got the ball on the right elbow and spun baseline to nail a midrange jumper that brought BYU within a single bucket at 25-23.
Carlino's stepback jumper over Olynyk's outstretched arm got the home team within three with 3:18 to play until the half. On the next possession, Carlino put back his own missed shot to close the gap to one and bring the crowd to its feet.
BYU forward Nate Austin fouled Gonzaga's Drew Barham on a 3-point attempt with 1:28 to go in the half. Barham made all three shots to give the Bulldogs a 33-29 advantage. A pair of free throws from each team in the final minute of the first half made the score 35-31 heading into the break.
BYU grabbed eight offensive rebounds in the first half and scored 11 second-chance points. The Cougars had seven more possessions than the Bulldogs in the period, but Gonzaga made 12 of 18 free throws compared to BYU's 5 of 11 from the charity stripe. Gonzaga did not make a field goal in the last 7:30 of the first half.
The Bulldogs opened the second half with a 3-pointer from Bell, his fourth of the night. On the next BYU possession, Cusick responded with a 3-pointer of his own from the left corner.
A pair of baskets by Olynyk gave the Bulldogs an eight-point cushion with 16:28 left in the game. Davies picked up his fourth foul of the game with 13:33 remaining, prompting Rose to send in Kaufusi to save Davies from an early exit.
Davies checked back in with 10:11 to play and BYU trailing 54-43. On the ensuing inbounds play, Haws snuck behind the defense for a layup plus the foul. Haws finished the old-fashioned three-point play to make the score 54-46 in favor of the Bulldogs.
With BYU down by seven with seven minutes to play, Davies kicked the ball out to Zylstra who made the wide open 3-pointer. Zylstra hit another triple on the following Cougar possession, making the score 58-55 with 6:06 to play.
Trailing by five with 5:05 to play, Cusick found himself trapped on the right wing with the shot clock dwindling. A quick dribble to the right bought him an inch of free space to launch a 3-pointer that found the bottom of the net. It was BYU's third-consecutive basket from behind the arc and it pulled the Cougars within a bucket at 60-58.
Davies made a pair of free throws to tie the game at 60 with 4:18 to go. It was the first and only tie of the game.
Olynyk's 10-foot jumper gave the Bulldogs a 65-62 lead with just under a minute remaining. With BYU trailing by five and less than 10 seconds to go, Cusick drew a foul on a 3-point attempt. He made all three foul shots, cutting Gonzaga's lead to 67-65 with seven seconds remaining. Gonzaga finished the game from the foul line, making three of four in the final seconds.
The Cougars head to Los Angeles to play Loyola Marymount on Saturday at 8 p.m. PST. The game will be televised on ESPNU and broadcast on KSL Newsradio 102.7 FM and 1160 AM.
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