SPOKANE, Wash. — For the first time in program history, BYU beat the No. 1 team in the nation with a 79-71 victory over Gonzaga Saturday night at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
“These players will remember this for a long time,” BYU head coach Dave Rose said. “We challenged Gonzaga in Provo, but we never really threatened to beat them. We got a chance to do it again knowing we could put pieces together to make runs on these guys and cause some issues. Our guys really believed in each other and believed this could happen.”
The key difference between BYU (21-10, 12-6 West Coast Conference) and Gonzaga (29-1, 17-1 WCC) was the 3-point shooting. The Cougars outshot the Bulldogs 38 percent to 19 percent from beyond the arc and hit nine compared to Gonzaga's three.
Eric Mika led all scorers with 29 points and 11 rebounds, notching a double-double. He surpassed 1,000 career points and recorded his 32nd-straight game scoring double figures. TJ Haws added 17 points while Elijah Bryant contributed 14.
Gonzaga took command early on, going on a 7-0 lead in the first three minutes and 18-2 at the 14:26 mark. The Bulldogs led by 15 points, 23-8, with 11:07 on the clock. BYU then responded with a 14-3 run to come within four points, 26-22, with 6:56 left in the half. Mika scored five-consecutive points on a free throw and two jumpers while Haws hit three-straight 3-pointers as part of the run.
A layup from Mika with 3:35 left reduced the Cougars’ deficit to one, 31-30. Gonzaga then went on a 10-5 run to take a 41-35 lead heading into halftime.
The Zags struck first to open the second half and increased their lead to eight, 43-35, and eventually 12 at 58-46. BYU answered Gonzaga’s baskets with six points from Mika and two 3-pointers from Nick Emery, sparking an offensive outburst. The Cougars went on a 15-2 run to take a 61-60 lead with 8:40 left in the game.
BYU maintained its composure and kept it a one-possession game. Haws sank a 3-pointer with 4:38 on the clock to even the score 67-67. The Bulldogs responded, but Bryant’s perfect trip to the charity stripe with 1:53 to go tied the game again, 71-71. Layups from Mika and Corbin Kaufusi gave the the Cougars a four-point lead, 75-71, with less than 20 seconds to go. Mika and Emery combined for 4 of 4 from the free-throw line to give BYU a 79-71 win.
The Cougars will now prepare for next week’s 2017 West Coast Conference Men’s Basketball Championships at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Mar. 2-7.