No. 1 Gonzaga rallies to beat BYU 88-78 in WCC title game
LAS VEGAS (AP) — Jalen Suggs hit two late 3-pointers and scored 23 points, helping top-ranked Gonzaga survive its biggest test of an undefeated season to beat Brigham Young 88-78 in the West Coast Conference Tournament title game on Tuesday night.
Gonzaga 88, BYU 78: Box score
The Bulldogs (26-0) had been unstoppable all season, winning all but one of their games by double digits as they advanced to the WCC title game for the 24th straight year.
The Cougars (20-6) made the lopsided losses list twice, but exposed Gonzaga’s lone weakness in the first half at Orleans Arena: its defense.
BYU shot confidently, using an early 11-0 run to build a 12-point halftime lead.
The Zags responded to their biggest halftime deficit in three years by locking down defensively and getting back to their efficient ways on offense.
Suggs took charge down the stretch, hitting consecutive 3-pointers to put Gonzaga up by nine with 1:28 left.
JALEN. SUGGS. 🥶
— NCAA March Madness (@marchmadness) March 10, 2021
Corey Kispert scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half.
Gonzaga has won a school-record 30 straight games over two seasons and will be the first team since Kentucky in 2015 and 16th overall to enter the NCAA Tournament undefeated. The Zags won their eighth WCC title in nine years and 17th under coach Mark Few.
Trevin Knell led BYU with 20 points.
The Cougars were the last team to beat Gonzaga, 91-78 on Feb. 22, 2020.
Gonzaga won the first meeting this season by 17 points, but the second was 82-71 — one of the closest games these Zags have played.
BYU’s best chance to win the third go-round was to outshoot the Zags.
The Cougars did just that to start the game, hitting 10 of their first 16 shots to take a 26-19 lead. BYU continued to go right at the Zags, hitting 9 of 13 from beyond the arc to lead 53-41 at halftime. Knell had 15 points and was 4 of 5 from 3.
Gonzaga looked like more the the nation’s No. 1 team to start the second half, getting out to BYU’s shooters and putting the ball in Kispert’s hands.
The preseason Associated Press All-American shot 1 of 6 in the first half, but made three 3s in the opening three minutes to pull Gonzaga with 55-52.
BYU went back up nine behind its defense, but the Zags answered with a 12-0 run to go up 71-68.
Suggs hit a 3-pointer with 2:20 left and another on Gonzaga’s next possession to make it 82-73.
BYU showed it can hang with anyone when the shots are falling. Expect the Cougars to be a tough out in the NCAA Tournament.
Gonzaga got a jolt from the Cougars, which could work out well in the NCAAs. Being tested this late after a season full of blowouts could help the Zags if things get tight in the tournament.
BYU should be a lock to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015. A strong showing against the No. 1 team in the country should boost their seeding, too.
Gonzaga will be a No. 1 seed next week as the tournament gets underway in Indianapolis.
Last time: No. 1 Zags blow out St. Mary’s in WCC semis