Douglas C. Pizac-USA Today Sports
In observing tonight's game, I watched the Zags struggle far more than usual - but still close out like so many other top teams were unable to do this week. That's why they should be tops in the country.
I'm not really sure what makes BYU continue to give regular minutes to Bronson Kaufusi. I appreciate that he has very brief flashes, so you can see what he could be with proper coaching and maturation. That said, right now he serves no more benefit than a tackling dummy.
He is a big body, originally recruited to the Cougars as a defensive lineman, and he is only a freshman. However, he has poor body control, no back-to-the-basket moves, no ability to make a free throw, and judging by his Flagrant 1 trying to defend Kelly Olynyk, no idea how to defend aggressively withoutcausing chaos.
This is all unfortunate, because he has become the primary backup to Brandon Davies, who demonstrated again tonight that he doesn't know how to stay out of foul trouble against teams that are able to match up against him physically. He was fortunate in the first half that Elias Harris had some foul trouble and Davies' presence was less needed, but in the second half it was only Davies who couldn't stay on the floor.
It seemed like BYU was playing hard, but never quite able to really mount a threat... and then the three point shots started falling. Brock Zylstra drilled a three and then ran back on defense high-fiving the front row of the student section. Then he drilled another. Then fellow senior Craig Cusick drilled a desperation three to beat the shot clock and suddenly the Cougars only down 60-58 with five minutes remaining.
I give the Cougars credit, they played their hearts out and rode the massive wave of energy their crowd provided (that place was deafening), but they got a lot of help from Gonzaga as well. Shooting 20-34 on free throws? That's high school level. Or shooting 6-30 from three point range? Though, to be fair, that was largely Kevin Pangos shooting 1-12. Out-rebounded 13-6 on the offensive glass? Yikes.
Not to mention their refusal to use Olynyk to attack the BYU zone. Olynyk spent the last seven minutes hanging out in the middle of the zone right around the free throw line, but it wasn't until 45 seconds remaining that they finally passed it to him for an open jumper that had been there all day.
And then Mike Hart, Mr. Everything for the Zags, got called for a reach-in foul on what was supposedly a three-point shot, and it was a game again. But in the end, it just wasn't enough. The Cougars couldn't get any shots to fall in the final minute, and the Zags finally found their wits on the free throw line just enough to put the game away.