"This team deserves to be in the NCAA Tournament."
Those were BYU basketball coach Dave Rose's final words at the postgame news conference after the Cougars were embarrassed 77-58 here Saturday night at Orleans Arena in front of a sellout crowd of 7,828 and a national television audience.
Maybe so, but it is going to be a long and angst-filled week for the Cougars as they await Selection Sunday. A single-digit loss to Gonzaga (25-5) might have been palatable to the committee, but a 19-point beatdown could have different repercussions.
We will see.
The Cougars were outplayed from the get-go, and Rose acknowledged as much. Gonzaga shot 54.7 percent from the field, including 46.7 percent from 3-point range (7-for-15) and led from start to finish.
Gonzaga fans chanted N-I-T N-I-T at the Cougars in the waning moments.
The Cougar-killer on this night was freshman guard Kevin Pangos, however. He was 10-for-17 from the field for 30 points, and also had four assists.
"I thought Gonzaga played outstanding. They came out and were aggressive, and they played with a lot of emotion, a lot of energy, and they executed really well. They hit shots, " Rose said. "I thought defensively we were pretty engaged, as far as our game plan was concerned. Our problem was offensively. We had a hard time scoring throughout the game, and they got separation in the score.
Then we kind of panicked a little bit, rushed things, and Gonzaga was just good, they were really good for 40 minutes."
Brandon Davies led the Cougars with 17 points on 7-for-11 shooting, but had just two rebounds. The Cougars were outrebounded 37-31.
"Like coach said, we kinda struggled offensively early on and got ourselves into a hole that we could never get out of," Davies said.
Charles Abouo took the blame for not slowing down Pangos, although some of his five 3-pointers came when the Cougars were in a zone defense. Abouo had 12 points and 10 rebounds, but left the game just before the first half ended with a probable sprained wrist. He returned in the second half.
"I thought they just started the game off really well and they jumped out on us, and we didn't do a good job of responding," Abouo said. "We had certain stretches of the game where we were able to kind of fight, but they beat us with a sustained effort for 40 minutes."
Noah Hartsock didn't start, but was quickly inserted into the game at the 17:01 mark when Gonzaga jumped out to a quick 6-2 lead. The Cougars missed six of their first seven shots.
Rose said he didn't start Hartsock because coaches thought it best to stick with the game plan they worked on all week, a plan that worked reasonably well in the win Friday night over Portland.
"Well, we practiced all week with a game plan of how we were going to come down here and play. He surprised us a little bit by the minutes he played last night. And he didn't go through shootaround today, because his knee was really sore," Rose said.
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