Perhaps BYU coach Dave Rose summed it up best in his last statement to the media after the Cougars fell 70-65 to No. 2 Gonzaga in front of 19,731 fans at the Marriott Center.
"It was set up great for us," Rose said. "All we had to do was finish a couple plays, and it would have been a much happier ending."
But the Cougars (20-10) didn't make those plays -- just as they didn't make the big plays down the stretch last week at Saint Mary's -- and blew a golden opportunity to beat a team that is more than likely going to be ranked No. 1 in the country next Monday.
How did the chance for one of the biggest upsets in school history slide by?
The Cougars missed seven straight shots after Brandon Davies' putback basket cut the deficit to 63-62 with about 2:49 left. And GU's Kelly Olynyk, who wasn't nearly as dominant as he was a month ago in Spokane, hit a 10-footer in the lane for his 18th and 19th points with about 45 seconds left.
Rose called that the biggest shot of the game.
"That's a dang good team, BYU," Zags coach Mark Few said on television after his team improved to 28-2.
But a team that can't seem to finish.
After making a 3-point play with 10:11 remaining, Tyler Haws missed his final five shots, including one that went in and out with 1:52 left.
"I knew we were going to have to work," said Few. "I knew it was going to be an incredible environment and BYU was going to give us everything we could handle, especially in this building. One thing they do under Dave is play unbelievably hard. They not only did that tonight, but they stepped up and made big shots. They deserve a lot of credit for taking it down to the wire."
But never getting over the hump. The Cougars never had a lead. They trailed by as many as 11 points. They outrebounded the Zags 43-39 and committed just eight turnovers (GU had seven turnovers).
Ultimately, though, they shot themselves in the foot by missing nine free throws. They matched the Zags with six 3-pointers on 13 fewer attempts from beyond the arc. They watched Kevin Pangos go 1 for 12 from 3-point range. They watched Elias Harris (25 points in Spokane) have a quiet night with 11 points.
But they still lost.
Rose's opening statement to the media:
"I am really proud of our guys. I thought we competed really hard. I thought Gonzaga played hard and it was a physical battle. But both teams competed. I thought that our guys got ourselves in a position where we could win the game, and a missed rebound here, a couple missed shots here, and it could have been a different story."
I give coach [Mark] Few and his guys credit. They came in here and did what they had to do to win. It is a very well-coached team, a very talented team, a deep team. And maybe we will get a chance to play them again in Vegas. We will see.
I thought the crowd was great. Great atmosphere.
I will have to go back and watch the film. I thought we had quite a few chances to find a way to win that game, and it just didn't happen tonight."
Here are more of Rose's postgame comments:
On what he will tell his players after taking the presumptive No. 1 team down to the wire:
"I think the guys all understand that it wasn't one guy, or one mistake. Everyone had chances. We all had opportunities to make a play, or finish a play, and I think that the last two games have been really similar because we have fought really hard together and competed really hard together.
We made crucial stops at times. We made big baskets, but when it came down to making that play to win the game, we come up a little short."
On whether Gonzaga is No. 1 team in country:
"They are good. This is one of the best teams we have played since I have been here, like the North Carolina team we played a few years ago in Vegas that won the national championship. They are deep. They have great point guard play, they have great post play. They didn't shoot the ball very well tonight, which kind of kept us in the game. But they found a way to win, so it is a really good team.
I hope we get a chance to play them again."
On the improvement past few weeks:
"I think our team has really taken it to heart to compete together as a group. You take the Portland game, the Utah State game, and then Saint Mary's and Gonzaga, it is a tough run, and I think that our guys are sharing the ball better. I think just our defensive effort, as far as rebounding and competing, and relying on each other more, is better.
We need to get a win here and get on a positive note to have some confidence going into the tournament in Vegas. But we will have a challenge on Saturday. That's a really talented team [LMU] that has had some tough luck, so we will see."
On BYU's defense on Olynyk:
"I think we did a better job on Olynyk and Harris. I mean, they were good up there, but you look at their numbers, they still had pretty good games. Olynyk hit a huge shot when they were up one. He got the ball in the middle of that zone and hit it, so we did a better job. But those two are tough. They are tough to handle."
On the crowd of 19,731:
"It was good tonight. It was a great crowd, and a great atmosphere. We had a couple chances to take the lead, and sometimes that is all you need is to get over that hump and actually get the lead, and it can kind of carry you through. But we never got it. It eluded us the whole night."
On the first four minutes of the game being pivotal:
"Well, I knew our guys would be full of energy. We have been doing this quite a while, and Senior Night is a real emotional time. It actually took us quite a while to settle down. But I thought that our energy level was good, our urgency level was good, our competitive juice was good, and it helped us defensively, but offensively it had us hurrying up a little and we weren't executing offensively as well as we can."
On juggling guys due to foul trouble and why Matt Carlino didn't play at the end of the game:
"I thought that the foul trouble, Brandon really handled it well. For a guy who has been through quite a career full of foul issues, you get two fouls with 18 minutes still to play in the first half, and still to be able to come in and play and keep it a four-point game, and then get his fourth foul with 12 or 14 minutes left in the game, and still be able to finish and really help us, I thought that showed a lot of maturity and great leadership for him.
We took Matt out, gave him a rest, and it seemed like we got some momentum, got into a good flow and Craig was running the point pretty well and we just stayed with it. Came up a few plays short."
On footballer Bronson Kaufusi's play and whether the flagrant foul whistle that resulted in four Gonzaga points was warranted:
"We will have to go back and look. Bronson is a physical guy by nature, and I think that maybe he might be getting a couple tough calls just by his reputation as a pretty good defensive end. We will have to see.
But we need to play through people. When we are being aggressive, going after balls, that gives us an advantage."
On Kevin Pangos' rough night shooting:
"Well, there won't be many nights where he goes 1 for 12 from the 3-point line. The way he burned us in the tournament last year, I think he was some ridiculous number -- 6 for 8 or some kind of deal. Those seem to even out some times."
On coming up short on Senior Night:
"I feel for those guys. I feel for those three seniors who played their hearts out tonight. You saw what basically they have meant to our program, just in a nutshell, in a 40-minute game. And these guys are competitors, and they are great teammates, and they play for each other. I think that we could have made one or two more shots, and it could have been a different outcome, and they would be feeling better about themselves. But these guys have been remarkable for our program. They are going to be successful in life, whatever they do."
On having to face Zags on Senior Night:
"There are a lot of things you see on that schedule that kind of get your attention. Your last home game against the Zags when you knew they were going to be preseason top 25, and you know they've had a remarkable year. ... But our guys fought, and like I said, I am proud of how competitive they were together as a group. They didn't go off on their own after getting stung pretty badly by them up there.
And then having the game start like it did again, and thinking it might get out of hand, I think our guys really battled and competed. That is a good sign."
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