PROVO, Utah – Despite overcoming a 16-point first-half deficit, BYU men's basketball fell 87-80 to No. 8 Gonzaga Saturday at the Marriott Center to begin conference play.
"It was a hard-fought game," BYU head coach Dave Rose said. "It was the first league game and I think you could feel it. You could tell that it had some real emotion and urgency and tension to it."
Kyle Collinsworth ended the game with his second triple-double of the year, finishing with 13 points and team highs of 10 rebounds and 10 assists. Tyler Haws led the Cougars with 17 points to go along with four rebounds. Haws shot 9 for 9 from the charity stripe. Anson Winder also contributed double-digit points for his team with 17.
Kyle Wiltjer scored the first six points of the game for Gonzaga (12-1, 1-0 West Coast Conference) as it took a 16-4 early lead against BYU (10-4, 0-1 WCC). After a 12-0 Bulldog run, the Cougars were able to go on a 9-4 rally of their own – capped off by a Skyler Halford 3-pointer – to come back within seven at 20-13.
Gonzaga continued its hot shooting from there, using a 7-0 spurt to take its largest lead of the half at 31-15 with just over nine minutes left before the break. A Jake Toolson 3-pointer then ignited BYU as it went on an 11-2 run to bring the lead back to seven at 33-26.
The Bulldogs took their first timeout of the half after a transition layup from Winder kept the Cougars within reach, down 35-31. The teams traded points from there with Collinsworth tying the game at halftime by hitting a 3-pointer with time expiring to make it 43-all at the break.
A trio of Haws free throws gave BYU its first lead of the game, 46-43, coming out of the intermission. The Cougars kept the lead until eight-consecutive points from Gonzaga's Kevin Pangos tied the game at 57 apiece.
A step-back Winder jumper tied the game back up at 67, but the Bulldogs scored eight straight to extend their lead to 75-67 with 6:27 remaining in the game. Back-to-back treys from Halford kept BYU alive, down 77-73, and free throws from Collinsworth and Haws kept the score within a possession at 80-77, Gonzaga.
The Cougars turned the ball over twice with just 1:36 left, setting up a bucket from the Bulldogs' Byron Wesley to extend his team's lead to five at 82-77. BYU couldn't overcome Gonzaga's late-game free throw shooting as the Zags came away with an 87-80 win.
"They were good. Their execution was good," Rose said. "They're a good team, and now we look forward to getting our guys ready for the Portland game on Monday."
The Cougars return to the Marriott Center to face off against league-foe Portland at 7 p.m. MST on Monday, December 29. The game will be broadcast live on BYUtv, the Cougar IMG Sports Network on KSL 102.7 FM/1160 AM and BYU Radio. Links to live stats and a video feed can be found on the BYU men's basketball schedule page.
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