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BYU Basketball Vs. No. 1: How Cougars Have Fared Against Top-Ranked Teams

SPOKANE, WASHINGTON - JANUARY 18: Corey Kispert #24 of the Gonzaga Bulldogs goes to basket against Jake Toolson #5 of the BYU Cougars in the second half at McCarthey Athletic Center on January 18, 2020 in Spokane, Washington. Gonzaga defeats BYU 92-69. (Photo by William Mancebo/Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah – It’s not often BYU basketball gets an opportunity to face the No. 1 team in the country. Thursday night’s sudden modified schedule by the WCC gives BYU another crack at a top-ranked team. Once again, it’s courtesy of the Gonzaga Bulldogs, who are 10-0 this season and drawing comparisons to some of the greatest teams in college basketball history.

BYU’s trip to The Kennel will mark the eighth game against an AP No. 1 ranked team all-time in the Cougars history that dates back to 1902.

Here’s a quick trip down memory lane for the previous seven games BYU basketball has had against the nation’s top-ranked team.

January 18th, 2020: at Gonzaga, Loss, 92-69

Everyone remembers last year’s win over the Zags in Provo on senior night, but the trip to The Kennel the previous month wasn’t as pleasant for Mark Pope’s program. Without Yoeli Childs, who was out due to an injury suffered in practice, BYU had had no answer for Killian Tillie as the Zags rolled to a 23-point win.

February 25th, 2017: at Gonzaga, Win, 79-71

In 2017 BYU basketball pulled off a massive upset taking down the 29-0 Zags on their home floor on the Zags senior night. Fans at The Kennel were ready to coronate the Bulldogs with a 30-0 regular-season record, but BYU had other plans.

To highlight how improbable BYU’s chances were going into that night. Ken Pomeroy’s projections gave BYU a 1.5 percent chance of pulling off the upset. The folks in the desert pegged BYU as a 20-point underdog.

According to plan, the game started with Gonzaga jumping out to an early 18-2 lead. But BYU kept chipping away before closing the game out on a 10-0 run.

Eric Mika scored a game-high 29 points and TJ Haws dropped 17 as a true freshman to give BYU its first and only win over a top-ranked team.

February 2nd, 2017: Gonzaga, Loss, 85-75

BYU’s only game in program history at the Marriott Center against a top-ranked team. Nigel Williams-Goss and the Zags jumped out to a 15-point lead early in the first half and were in control the entire way. Williams-Goss scored 33 in front of the sold-out Marriott Center crowd.

November 24th, 2007: North Carolina, Loss, 73-63 (Las Vegas)

The breakout game for Trent Plaisted to the nation. Dick Vitale couldn’t get enough of the BYU big man who dropped 24 points and pulled down 17 rebounds. BYU went back-and-forth with the Tar Heels in the second half, taking a 44-42 lead. But Tyler Hansbrough proved to be too much, scoring 21 points as UNC took down the upset-minded Cougars who had defeated No. 6 Louisville the previous night in Las Vegas.

December 23rd, 1992: Duke, Loss, 89-66 (Maui Invitational)

After a pair of upset wins over Oklahoma and Memphis State in the Maui Invitational, BYU had a championship bout before Christmas with defending national champion and No. 1 Duke. The Blue Devils had a starting five that featured Bobby Hurley, Grant Hill, Antonio Lang, and Cherokee Parks.

BYU didn’t have any more Maui magic up their sleeve to take down Mike Krzyzewski’s loaded Blue Devils.

March 18th, 1971: vs. UCLA, Loss, 91-73 (NCAA Tournament)

50 years ago this season, BYU, led by legendary head coach Stan Watts squared off against college basketball’s greatest coach in John Wooden and UCLA at the Huntsman Center in the NCAA Tournament. Only 25 teams made it to the Big Dance back then, and BYU took a shot at the greatest dynasty this sport has ever seen.

BYU’s trio of Kresimir Cosic, Bernie Fryer, and Steve Kelly was not enough to counter the balanced Bruins that had six players score in double-figures led by Henry Bibby and Sidney Wicks.

December 28th, 1951: vs. Kentucky, Loss, 84-64 (New Orleans)

Played at the Municipal Auditorium, former home of the New Orleans Jazz, the 1951 NIT Champs, BYU, faced the 1951 NCAA champs in Kentucky in the Sugar Bowl classic. BYU lost legends Mel Hutchins and Roland Minson to graduation, leaving the Cougars with a roster that couldn’t hang with Adolph Rupp’s Wildcats, who were entrenched in a bribery scandal.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m., KSL Newsradio). Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper and the KSL Sports app

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