History has a way of repeating itself.
Gonzaga’s quest for an undefeated regular season was foiled Saturday night in Spokane by the BYU Cougars. For the second time in three years the Cougars came to the Kennel on senior night and sent the home team into the postseason with a 17-1 conference record.
While BYU, like most every team in the country, can’t match up with Gonzaga at most spots on the floor, they do have one Eric Mika (29 points, 11 rebounds). Mika, a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award finalist, is perhaps the only player in the WCC capable of matching up with fellow Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Award finalist Przemek Karnowski (10 points, 6 rebounds).
Nigel Williams-Goss led Gonzaga with 19 points. In Provo earlier this month the Zags needed Williams-Goss to take over in the second half. Tonight in Spokane, the Cougars relied on their star to do the same.
On a free throw early in the second half Mika, a sophomore, pushed past 1,000 career points. It was the first of a string of notable moments for the big man.
With 10:14 left in the game Mika blocked Zach Collins at the rim. A couple of possessions later Mika gave the Cougars their first lead of the game, 61-60.
Gonzaga led 18-2 early.
Just before Mika took over, Gonzaga head coach Mark Few got called for a technical. Often coaches ignite their teams in that way. It didn’t work.
But when Eric Mika picked up a flagrant foul, for pulling Karnowski to the ground with 7:42 to play, his teammates rallied around him. With the hometown crowd raining down boos, showing why Gonzaga is able to advertise the McCarthy Athletic Center as “the nation’s winningest arena.”
BYU didn’t break. They did what no team had managed to do this season. They beat Gonzaga.
Both teams traded blows down the stretch, but a pair of Josh Perkins turnovers on back-to-back possessions in the final minute doomed the Zags. BYU, a team that runs the fourth fastest tempo in the country per KenPom, was content to dribble the clock down.
It looked weird, just like the final score.
The Cougars (21-10, 12-6) clinched the three seed in the upcoming WCC Tournament. Gonzaga (29-1, 17-1) hold the one seed.