Spoiling senior night is a nice little tradition that Gonzaga and BYU are developing. BYU did it last year in Spokane, Gonzaga did it this year in Provo.
Gonzaga clinched at least a share of the West Coast Conference regular season championship tonight. It's the Zags' 19th title, all of which have come since 1994. The victory also assures Gonzaga of a top-two seed in next week's WCC Tournament in Las Vegas.
The Cougars' at-large hopes, already beyond slim, are now gone. As is any shot at the program's first WCC title. To make the NCAA Tournament they'll now need to win the WCC Tournament title.
Kyle Wiltjer (21 points) and Domantas Sabonis (15 points, 14 rebounds) led the stat-sheet charge for the Zags once again, as they have all season long. But as has been the case down the stretch those two got a boost from Silas Melson (13 points) and the guards. Melson was especially effective early, scoring nine first half points, as the Cougars were managing to stifle the Gonzaga bigs.
In a five minute stretch after sub-16 minute TV timeout the Cougars stripped the ball from Gonzaga's big men in the paint four times. Gonzaga committed 11 first half turnovers.
BYU wasn't able to take advantage due to dismal shooting, 32.8% FG for the game, but also because of foul trouble on star point guard Kyle Collinsworth (15 points, 15 rebounds, 8 assists).
When the 6-foot-6 senior went to the bench with two fouls and just over eight minutes left in the first the Cougars' offense stalled. Gonzaga went on an 11-0 run and Dave Rose put his best player back in despite the fouls. The run grew to 14-0 before Zac Seljaas hit a free throw at the 1:42 mark. That cut Gonzaga's lead down to eight points.
Shortly thereafter the officiating crew made the first of many strange calls. Both teams had gripes about calls, missed calls, lengthy reviews and strange stoppages of play. It began with a call that riled both sides. Chasing a loose ball Kyle Dranginis and Seljaas got tangled up and went to the deck. Seljaas was called for a personal, Dranginis was issued a dead ball technical.
Chase Fischer (18 points) hit both free throws after the technical, then drained a three through contact from Silas Melson. BYU scored six straight points coming out of that play.
With Nick Emery (11 points) and Kyle Davis getting into foul trouble early in the second half Gonzaga was able to pull ahead. Six straight points from Josh Perkins gave the Zags a double-digit lead.
The Cougars countered with a zone to prevent the Gonzaga guards from getting into the paint. It worked and BYU cut the lead to four points with 6:15 to play. Well, it worked against the guards. Domantas Sabonis rallied the Zags with six straight of his own.
It was a one possession game in the final minute after a Chase Fischer three brought the Cougars within two, 70-68.
Sabonis missed a jumper and a pair of free throws and Nick Emery missed two potentially game winning three pointers. Both fouled out. It was Silas Melson who scored the only point of the excruciatingly long final minute — this officiating crew should not be allowed to work together again, not because of any awful calls but because of all the meaningless stoppages of play — at the free throw line with 0.9 seconds left.
If Saint Mary's loses later tonight at San Francisco Gonzaga will claim the WCC title outright, and earn the one seed in Vegas. Should Saint Mary's win that will set up a Gonzaga vs. BYU rematch in the WCC semis, just over a week away.