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How BYU Took Down No. 2 Gonzaga To Earn Season-Defining Win

Brigham Young Cougars forward Yoeli Childs (23) celebrates with fans who rushed the court after BYU toppled No. 2-ranked Gonzaga 91-78 at the Marriott Center in Provo on Saturday, Feb. 22, 2020. (Spenser Heaps, Deseret News)

PROVO, Utah – Speak your dreams into existence. BYU head coach Mark Pope had students dreaming of big wins and championships four months ago before the season started and now those dreams have come to fruition as No. 23 BYU took down the No. 2 Gonzaga Bulldogs, 91-78.

How did it happen? A program that one year ago at this time was a 19-win team with uncertainty everywhere you look. What did it take to get to this moment? Let’s take a deeper dive into how BYU’s best win in a decade came to be.

Mark Pope made BYU believe

When Mark Pope took over as head coach, he made it clear that he didn’t live in “realistic expectations.” The relentless, 24/7 approach by Mark Pope had BYU’s team filled with seniors that they could do achieve something special.

Pope believes he has the “best locker room in America,” you might not need the best one but you need a great one to take down a Gonzaga program that never loses in WCC play.

The buy-in from this BYU roster to Pope’s vision played a large role in setting the stage for Saturday night’s theatrics.

Resilient

From injuries to tough losses, BYU has become a resilient team this season. In Saturday night’s win against Gonzaga, they had to show their resiliency again.

BYU started the game cold from beyond the arc but then ended the game with a field goal percentage at 53 percent, 41 percent from three, and 78 at the free-throw line. The officiating was at times, questionable on both ends of the floor, to the point that Mark Pope had to be held back by assistant coach Nick Robinson late in the second half. But BYU didn’t let the setbacks impact them as they were a team that knew they could overcome adversity as they had done it so many times throughout the year.

TJ Haws: Tone-Setter

The senior guard has overcome a lot of adversity in his BYU career and now he’s playing his best basketball as a Cougar. In the opening minutes, Haws was a tone-setter for BYU and made the message clear that they could go blow for blow in a heavyweight fight against Gonzaga.

Haws was drawing charges, had active hands in passing lanes on the defensive end, and was knocking down his shots when the rest of the team started out with some big-game jitters. Haws ended the night with 16 points, eight assists, and four rebounds.

Kolby Lee on the defensive end

Are you a “Kolbeliever?” After Saturday night’s performance, you should be. Lee had some struggles early in the first two minutes of the game and quickly went to the bench, but when he came back in he was excellent on the defensive end in trying to limit Filip Petrusev and Killian Tillie. On the offensive side, Lee was perfect on field goals, free throws, and even the one three-pointer he put up.

To see where Lee has grown from the San Diego State game back in November to where he’s at now is a testament to the belief that Pope has instilled in everyone on the roster.

Yoeli Childs: Man’s Game

Staying in the frontcourt, Childs was a monster for BYU in the post putting up 28 and pulling down 10 rebounds. What made Childs’ performance so impressive was his patience and his willingness to invite contact against one of the best frontcourts college basketball has to offer.

Gonzaga head coach Mark Few after the game said Childs was one of the best players on the west coast. You could argue, he’s one of the best players in the entire country after the night he had against the Zags.

Gonzaga pushed, but BYU didn’t let them breakthrough

BYU held a 70-68 lead at the under-eight media timeout and Gonzaga had momentum on their side after Timme had an and-one opportunity after an offensive rebound. But then Zac Seljaas and Alex Barcello hit big shots to help extend BYU’s lead to nine and eventually set up the build-up towards one of BYU’s biggest wins in program history.

Pandemonium 

Back in October, Mark Pope had BYU students practice a court storming and for them to remember the feeling come March. Well, those feelings were definitely remembered as The ROC flooded the court.

Saturday night’s court storming is only the second time the court has been stormed in the history of the Marriott Center, which capped off the 91-78 upset over the Zags. The other court storming to take place in the 49-year history of the Marriott Center was in 2011 against San Diego State. It was a moment that will live with BYU fans forever.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12-3 pm) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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