Gonzaga has been to 18 straight WCC tournament championship games. They've won 14 of those. The 14th victory, tonight, sends them to the NCAA Tournament for the 17th straight season.
Kyle Wiltjer (18 points tonight) was named WCC Tournament MVP. His teammates Przemek Karnowski (12 points) and Kevin Pangos (16 points) joined him on the All-Tournament team, along with BYU's Kyle Collinsworth (game high 28 points) and Tyler Haws (15 points).
With the Zags securing the conference's auto-bid the 25-9 Cougars will be sweating it out until Selection Sunday once again. BYU has made the NCAA Tournament twice since joining the WCC for the 2011-12 season — at large selections in 2012 and 2014.
Long known a factory which turns out fantastic guards, Gonzaga is now focused on the front-court. The Zags' post-game press conference featured Mark Few along with two of his bigs, Wiltjer and Domantas Sabonis.
"Our bigs are what separates us nationally," Few said. "It was great tonight to see all three of them play fantastic."
Gonzaga drew 27 fouls in the game, of which 14 came from the BYU bigs.
Tyler Haws picked up two quick fouls and went to the bench less than three-and-a-half minutes into the game. Gary Bell Jr., the WCC defensive player of the year, drew the second foul. Which is only fitting considering Bell has been the only person capable of locking down Tyler Haws over his career.
Last night it was the Cougars who got hot from deep, tonight they saw the other side of that. Kevin Pangos, Kyle Wiltjer and Gary Bell connected from long range in less than a two minutes — during which Wiltjer also made a lay-up — and put the Zags up 17-10.
The BYU bigs had been showing steady improvement down the stretch but tonight they could not contain the skilled Gonzaga frontcourt.
Josh Sharp and Luke Worthington both picked up three fouls in the first half. Worthington came in to replace Corbin Kaufusi, who went to the bench after picking up fouls trying to guard Domantas Sabonis.
Gonzaga's first half lead was repeatedly stretched to nine, but no farther, as the Cougars answered with timely runs to keep the game from getting out of hand.
Foul trouble from the first half continued into the second for the Cougars. Ryan Andrus picked up his second and third fouls just four seconds apart
With 13 minutes remaining in the game Tyler Haws bit on a Kyle Drangnins shot fake. Dranginis blew past him for a wide open mid-range jumper. On Gonzaga's next possession Kevin Pangos got Skyler Halford to do the same thing, and he blew past for a wide open mid-range jumper of his own. Dranginis then blocked a Haws three pointer at the other end and knocked it out of bounds off Haws.
Dave Rose was livid and got called for a technical. After the free throws the Zags led by ten.
Over the next few possessions it seemed like Rose's outburst had fired up his team, as well timed techincals often do. The Cougars went on a 6-0 run and held the Zags scoreless for two-and-a-half minutes. It was back to a two possession game.
The Cougars had made runs like that all game, but just as they had all game, the Zags didn't let them close the gap.
Domantas Sabonis and Gary Bell made it an 11 point game in less than a minute. With just over two minutes to play it was a 14 point lead. Fans started leaving, the benches emptied and the Zags led by as much as 18.
Late in the game Skyler Halford was injured going for a rebound. BYU radio play-by-play man Greg Wrubell reported the injury is a lower leg nerve contusion, but that will not be confirmed until the Cougars return to Provo. This is the second straight WCC title game in which a BYU player — Kyle Collinsworth tore his ACL last season — has gone down with injury.
Gonzaga is now 32-2 on the season. For the second time in three years the Zags have won 32 games, a program record.