Bulldogs halt furious second half Cougar comeback

BYU pushed the Gonzaga Bulldogs in a WCC matchup of the conference foes.

PROVO – The BYU Basketball team faced their toughest foe on Thursday night as the #1 ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs visited the Marriott Center in a West Coast Conference matchup. Despite a strong second half, the Cougars couldn’t close the gap as they fell 85-75 dropping their record to 16-8 on the season and 7-4 in WCC play.

Both teams struggled to find a rhythm offensively, but the Bulldogs utilized a 10-2 run behind six points from Josh Perkins to put the game at 20-10 with 12:11 left in the first half. From there, Gonzaga never looked back as they continued to build the lead – taking a 16 point lead into the half – as they led 42-26.

“I think in the first half that Gonzaga had us spread out pretty good. They were able to make six of their first ten threes.” said BYU Head Coach Dave Rose. “The combination of the depth of their guard line and the size strength of their front line caused us problems.”

The Cougars found momentum in the second half behind seven quick points from TJ Haws. His play was the spark the Cougars needed as the Cougars opened the half with a 11-3 ru cutting the lead to 37-45.

“Coach told us to just go out there and compete, he said the game was hours from over and so we went out there and competed,” said Elijah Bryant. “He instilled in us all week to compete no matter the score so it was natural for that to carry over into the game.”

Gonzaga answered the BYU’s run by extending the lead to 18 with a 13-3 run behind 11 points from Nigel Williams-Goss who went on a tear with a 9-0 run on his own.

Williams-Goss finished the game with 33 points to lead all scorers.

“Williams-Goss just kind of controlled that game. He had a pace to him and a confidence to him to where every time we’d make a run that he’d have a pretty good answer,” said Rose. “He plays at a really comfortable pace, he’s hard to speed up. He’s the one guy that held that together and made big plays.”

Davin Guinn broke up Williams-Goss’ momentum with a 5-0 run of his as he sank a three and forced a turnover and called his own number finishing the play with a lay up.

Haws took the keys to the Cougar offense from there. Finishing the game with 29 points, he scored 16 in the final 11:34 of the game.

“That was a super fun game,” said Haws. “I couldn’t help but smile when I heard the crowd get that loud.”

BYU closed the lead to six. Despite the efforts of Haws, they were unable to make the Zags sweat any more than that.

In addition to Haws play, Eric Mika finished with 15 points and 11 boards, Elijah Bryant had 12 points and five assists in his first career start, and Yoeli Childs added 11 points and eight rebounds.

The Cougars will return to the hardwood Saturday as they host the Portland Pilots in the Marriott Center. That game will be broadcast on BYUTV and can be heard on the Cougar IMG Sports Network (102.7 FM, 1160 AM, 143 SiriusXM) with the Voice of the Cougars Greg Wrubell on the call.

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