BYU men’s basketball loses to Gonzaga in last tough outing
The Cougars have lost four straight, including the last two at home.
Provo • Two hours before the BYU men’s basketball team faces the Gonzaga Bulldogs, the ROC’s student section has already started to fill up. Fans camped outside the Marriott Center in anticipation of this game, as they do virtually every time the Bulldogs come to town. .
The students roared as the Cougars entered the field for warm-ups and when the starting lineup was introduced. But they didn’t have much to celebrate after that.
BYU (17-8, 5-5 West Coast Conference) scored the first five points of the game but was then hit by a tidal wave after that en route to a 90-57 loss Saturday. It marked four straight losses for the Cougars, who played without guard Te’Jon Lucas and started Seneca Knight in his place.
Gideon George led the way for BYU with 14 points and went 3 of 5 from the 3-point line but fouled out of the game. Knight shot just 3 of 15 but scored 13 points. Alex Barcello struggled on the court, scoring nine points on 4 of 14 shooting. Fousseyni Traore had six points, seven rebounds and three steals.
No. 2 Gonzaga dominated almost every facet of the game. One of the most telling stats is that the Bulldogs blocked nine shots, while the Cougars had 21. They also outshot BYU by a factor of eight.
Beating Gonzaga is about as hard as it gets in college basketball, so no one would realistically blame the Cougars for dropping out of both competitions this season. The problem lies in what led to Saturday’s resounding defeat.
The Cougars have been in the funk for two whole weeks now. It started when they lost games to Santa Clara and Pacific, the latter being one of the worst teams in the WCC. That left them without a single vote in the Associated Press’s Top 25 poll after being just out the week before.
At least the aforementioned losses were four points combined. BYU lost by 14 to San Francisco, a significantly better team than either Santa Clara or Pacific. But even then, Pope described his team losing their identity. Earlier this season, the Cougars were already going through an identity change after losing Gavin Baxter and a season-ending knee injury.
BYU was already going through a tough time entering this week. Barcello, Lucas and a few other selected players met at Barcello’s apartment last Sunday to discuss what was going on with the squad. Lucas said they seek complete honesty with each other in these conversations. Pope described conversations that involved the entire team as “emotionally overdone.”
So where does BYU go from here? He has just five regular season games left before the WCC Tournament, the first three of which are on the road. Unless they can win most or even all of those games, the Cougars appear to be firmly on the NCAA Tournament image bubble.
It remains to be seen whether five games are enough for the Cougars to find answers.
This story will be updated.