Three Takeaways From BYU’s Loss Against No. 1 Gonzaga
SPOKANE, Washington – Being without their star player in Yoeli Childs, the odds were stacked against BYU from pulling off the upset against the No. 1 ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs. But, BYU will head back home and they’ll see on film they let a lot of opportunities slip away against the Zags.
With the 23-point setback, BYU falls to 14-6 overall and 3-2 in the West Coast Conference. The Zags now have a two-game lead on everyone in the conference.
Let’s look at the three takeaways from BYU’s 92-69 loss to the nation’s best team in Gonzaga.
#1 Too many misses from three-point range
BYU went into the halftime locker room trailing Gonzaga by seven points. With how poorly BYU had shot from distance in the first half, it wasn’t the worst hole to be in. But if the tide was going to turn in BYU’s favor, they needed to knock down shots from beyond the arc. Those big buckets just never happened.
Early in the second half, before the first media timeout, BYU attempted six three-pointers and missed five of them. That was a tone-setter for the remainder of the game and a missed opportunity by BYU to cut the deficit.
Being an undersized team against a loaded Gonzaga team with size in the frontcourt, shooting 6-20 will not get it done against many teams, let alone the No. 1 team in the land.
#2 BYU’s deficiencies on the glass were highlighted against the Zags
BYU head coach Mark Pope hasn’t sugarcoated the Cougars flaws when it comes to rebounding the basketball. Against most teams in the West Coast Conference, the Cougars aren’t at a huge disadvantage on the glass. But not on Saturday night against the Zags.
In the 23-point loss, BYU was outrebounded by 16 (21-37). Not only was Gonzaga’s frontcourt of Killian Tillie and Filip Petrusev causing problems, but even the Zags guards in Joel Ayayi had six boards and Ryan Woolridge had another five.
Without Childs, Gavin Baxter, and even Trevin Knell, BYU is a small team right now. BYU’s defensive rotations throughout the night were just a step slow and it allowed for Gonzaga to dominate on the boards.
#3 BYU still belongs in the NCAA Tournament
No one should hang their head low for this BYU basketball team. Gonzaga head coach Mark Few said in the postgame that BYU belongs in the NCAA Tournament and they should be a single-digit seeded team in the field of 68. Losing to the number one team in the country on the road in a venue where the Zags have won 43 in a row is nowhere near a bad loss. Was there hope to keep the final score closer? Sure. But through 20 games, this BYU team without their star player has shown very well this season. The effort, the intensity has been there from this BYU team, but it’s a tough proposition going up against the number one team in the land and the number offense in college hoops.
Once BYU gets Childs back in the next week or two, the Cougars look to be a team primed and ready to make a run in the conference tournament this March.
Ultimately, March is when BYU wants to be playing its best basketball. With the loss to the Zags, the hope of winning a WCC regular-season title probably goes out on the window, but all of their other goals are still in front of them to accomplish. That’s an exciting thing for a program that hasn’t played in the Big Dance in five years.
Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.