Gonzaga shows BYU no charity at the Kennel, 74-63
Elias Harris had 19 points and 16 rebounds and the Bulldogs got even with BYU for a loss in the NCAA tournament last year with a 74-63 victory in Spokane.
Seattle Times colleges reporter
SPOKANE — The day began with a story in the morning paper about some Gonzaga students whose GU class was preaching tolerance of the night's opponent at the Kennel, saying there were some disparaging comments about the Latter Day Saints in cyberspace after BYU's easy basketball victory three weeks ago over the Zags.
On this night, it appeared the Kennel crazies were relatively hospitable, save for a dozen or so would-be "missionaries" attired in white shirts, ties and bicycle helmets.
Not so charitable was Gonzaga's feisty man-to-man defense, and not so accurate were the BYU shooters, and the Zags got a 74-63 victory over the Cougars behind Elias Harris' 19 points and 16 rebounds.
BYU shot a season-low 30.8 percent, and that number climbed in the last few minutes. It helped explain how Gonzaga won a game by double digits despite committing 20 turnovers alongside eight assists.
"That's a great win against an NCAA-tournament team," said Mark Few, the Gonzaga coach.
Nothing will completely heal the burn of Gonzaga's 88-67 flameout against BYU in the NCAA tournament last March, a scar deepened when BYU won again three weeks ago in Provo. But this was a start for the Zags, who improved to 22-5 and dropped the Cougars to 23-7.
"I was like, 'It's impossible they could beat us every single time,' " said Harris.
In that NCAA loss, it was national player of the year Jimmer Fredette who strafed the Zags for 34 points. That prompted the GU students to target BYU guard Matt Carlino — who engaged them after a successful first-half three-pointer — by chanting, "You're not Jimmer!"
And he wasn't, going 7 for 23 from the field.
It was a night of some quirky statistics. BYU hammered the Zags on the offensive boards, corralling 23 to equal their number at the other end. But that usually only resulted in more misses; the Cougars tossed up 78 field-goal attempts.
Meanwhile, Gonzaga had but 16 field goals, hardly a recipe for a winning night. But the Zags took advantage of BYU's overplaying perimeter pressure to drive it to the basket, and they went 36 of 44 from the foul line.
The Zags led at halftime, 37-27, and two bullish plays by JC transfer Guy Landry Edi, the Ivory Coast product, gave them a 15-point lead. First he muscled in a three-point play from the key, then he thundered home a missed jumper by Gary Bell Jr. to make it 42-27.
Shortly after that, Bell sought out an exclamation point. Edi stole the ball in backcourt, lobbed ahead to Bell, and the sellout crowd anticipated a breakaway dunk. But Bell, normally a meat-and-potatoes rather than a French-pastry guy, kissed the ball off the backboard to try to set up a slam by Edi, who got tangled among some Cougars, spoiling the extravaganza.
"I turned around and it looked like he was open," Bell said. "(Edi) was yelling, 'Off the glass, off the glass.' I should have laid it in or dunked it."
Few was remarkably tolerant, leaving Bell in after a couple of words with him.
"He was just being a kid; I'll bet he'll never do it again," Few said. "We were crystal-clear and good. We've moved on."
Gonzaga mostly cruised through the second half, if free throws count as cruising.
"They were trapping and doubling," Few said. "We needed to take to the basket. Our guys did a good job of getting to the line."
BYU rallied to skim the deficit to 57-50 with 4:35 left, but Gonzaga kept marching to the foul line to make it comfortable down the stretch.
The victory cinched the No. 2 seed for Gonzaga in next week's West Coast Conference tournament, which means they automatically get waved into the semifinals along with Saint Mary's. It's the Gaels who have a one-game lead entering the final day of league play, with Saint Mary's at San Francisco and Gonzaga traveling to San Diego.
BYU, which went most of the way without forward Noah Hartsock (knee), thus fell out of contention for a piece of the league title. This being the Cougars' first year in the league, a whole lot of WCC-niks didn't want that to happen, among them the Kennel Club. On this night, the rowdies stayed proper and got rewarded.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or firstname.lastname@example.org
About Bud Withers
Bud Withers gives his take on college sports, with the latest from the Huskies, Cougs, and the rest of the Pac-12.
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