Spokane, Wash. • The BYU Cougars were feeling pretty good about themselves heading into halftime at Gonzaga on Saturday night.
They weren’t trailing by 10 and 21 points like they were on their last two visits here, Gonzaga guard Kevin Pangos was just 1 of 5 from 3-point range and they looked like they had plenty of energy after that triple-overtime marathon Thursday.
Little did the Cougars know that things would change — in a hurry.
Pangos made all five 3-pointers he took in the second half, and the Cougars reverted back to playing that horrendous perimeter defense that doomed them in their other West Coast Conference road losses this season. Shooting 57 percent from the field, Gonzaga buried BYU 84-69 in front of 6,000 at the McCarthey Athletic Center, its fifth straight win over the Cougars and third straight by double figures at home.
"I was pretty confident our guys would fight, and they did," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "They came out and had good energy. We got a lot of 50-50 balls in the first half, there were a lot of hustle stats, the guys did a good job with that.
"But as the game wore on, we got some heavy legs, and had a hard time with some shots. We didn’t shoot the ball real well from the perimeter," Rose continued. "But [bad] defense was the key. We just let it get away."
Pangos scored 21 of his game-high 24 points in the second half and Sam Dower Jr. chipped in 18 as the Zags made 10 of 22 3-point attempts. Conversely, the Cougars were just 2 of 11 from long range.
"You got to give them all the credit in the world," said BYU freshman Eric Mika, who bounced back from a bad performance in Thursday’s 114-110 loss at Portland with 12 points and nine rebounds in 31 minutes. "We kind of lost it mentally on the defensive end. We let them do what they do best."
It was the second straight road loss for BYU (5-4, 13-9) and pretty much ensured the Cougars won’t challenge Gonzaga for the WCC regular-season title. The way they are playing, the Zags (8-1, 18-3) might just have it wrapped up when they return the game in Provo on Feb. 20.
Gonzaga never trailed after David Stockton’s 3-pointer gave it a 7-6 lead with 15:52 remaining in the first half. The Cougars trailed just 35-33 at the break, then watched the Zags make their first five shots of the second half, all easy ones.
"I thought we battled really well with them the first half," said Tyler Haws, who finished with 23 points, right on his scoring average. "They just made a run in the second half. We lost some shooters a few times, and Pangos really got going. You got to give him credit for knocking down big shots, but we kind of let it get away from us in the second half."
Kyle Collinsworth added 13 points and seven rebounds. Haws and Mika said their energy level was fine in the second half, refusing to blame the letdown on heavy legs, as Rose partially did.
"We felt fine," Haws said. "Maybe we relaxed a little bit."
The Cougars trailed by just four, 56-52, when Haws made a 3-point play with 11 minutes remaining. But Pangos hit a wide open 3-pointer and Gary Bell Jr. scored five straight points to push GU’s lead to 12. Bell and David Stockton had 14 each, Stockton getting 12 of those in the first half.
BYU kept looking for a run to get back in it, but it never came.
"We had a hard time locating Pangos," Rose said. "We had a plan for him, and it basically came down to a couple of possessions where we didn’t execute like we needed to, and he got free, and that kind of opened the game up a little bit."
After four straight road games, the Cougars return to the Marriott Center on Thursday to entertain Pacific.
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