BYU suffers 86-69 loss to No. 1 Gonzaga
SPOKANE, Wash. – BYU men’s basketball dropped its first West Coast Conference game of the season, losing 86-69 to No. 1 Gonzaga at the McCarthey Athletic Center on Thursday.
“Gonzaga has a chance to be a generational team, and they’ve certainly started out the season that way,” said BYU head coach Mark Pope. “What they’ve done to those top 20 teams and everybody else, they’re really difficult to handle, and we started really poorly. I was really proud of the guys. At no point in 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.”
BYU (9-3, 0-1 WCC) trailed Gonzaga (11-0, 1-0 WCC) from start to finish. Shooting 44.3 percent from the field and 25 percent from behind the arc, the Cougars couldn't keep up with the Bulldogs’ potent offense that shot 49.2 percent from the field. Gonzaga's smothering defense forced BYU to turn the ball over 16 times, resulting in the Bulldogs scoring 25 points.
Freshman Caleb Lohner scored a career-high 13 points in the loss, while adding five rebounds and a block to his stat line. Senior Matt Haarms also finished with 13 points after making five of his six field goal attempts and making all three of his free throws.
Juniors Richard Harward and Gideon George both reached double-figures in scoring, contributing 12 and 11 points, respectively. Sophomore Spencer Johnson pulled down a career-high seven boards while senior Alex Barcello led the team with five assists.
The Cougars committed five turnovers within the first four minutes of the game, helping the Bulldogs quickly jump out to a 16-2 lead. Harward knocked down a pair of free throws and Johnson hit a 3-pointer in the corner to make the score 25-7 with 12:06 remaining in the first half.
Haarms scored seven points to lead BYU on a 9-2 run, bringing the score to 32-16 with 8:50 on the clock. George provided a spark off the bench, scoring two quick layups for the Cougars after entering the game. A steal and transition 3-pointer by Lohner cut the deficit to 13 points, 39-26, four minutes before halftime.
Gonzaga answered by outscoring BYU 13-3 to extend its advantage to 52-29 at the break. The Cougars entered halftime only shooting 33.3 percent from the field and committing 11 first-half turnovers. The Zags scored 15 points off those turnovers while shooting 54.5 percent from the field and making five of their 10 3-point attempts.
Barcello knocked down a shot from behind the arc and Lohner scored a couple of layups as the two teams traded baskets to start the second half. The Bulldogs picked up where they left off and continued to remain in control on both ends of the court to maintain their comfortable lead for the rest of the second half.
George and Haarms followed up their strong play in the first period, scoring seven and six second-half points, respectively. Harward added six points of his own in the final two minutes as Gonzaga claimed the victory over BYU, 86-69.
The Cougars will continue conference play on the road against Saint Mary’s on Thursday, Jan. 14, in Moraga, California. Tip-off at the University Credit Union Pavilion is scheduled for 5 p.m. PST. The game is slated to be televised on ESPN2 and broadcast on the BYU Sports Networks on BYU Radio – Sirius XM 143/89.1 FM HD2 and KSL 102.7 FM/1160 AM.