SPOKANE, Wash. (ABC4 Sports) – For the second time this season, BYU could not hold a second half lead, and loses to Gonzaga.
Julian Strawther scored 26 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 3:10 remaining, and No. 16 Gonzaga rallied to beat BYU 88-81 on Saturday night.
Drew Timme added 19 points, eight assists and seven rebounds for the Bulldogs (21-5, 10-2 West Coast Conference).
After trailing 71-68 with 4:09 to play, Gonzaga made 3s on three straight possessions to climb past the Cougars. Strawther knocked down back-to-back 3s before finding Nasir Bolton for another one to put Gonzaga ahead 77-73 with 2:21 left.
“Just so much frustration right now,” said BYU head coach Mark Pope. “Thought the guys battled hard, but we’ve got young guys learning huge lessons right now. Tonight, the game was on the line, and we had to go grab rebounds — it doesn’t matter what it takes. We had to do that, and we didn’t.”
Gonzaga was 3 of 14 behind the arc before the late flurry that gave the Zags their seventh straight win over BYU.
For the second time this season, the Cougars held a late lead over Gonzaga only to see the Bulldogs roar back.
“What a ballgame. It was an intense game from the jump and it always is with BYU. Again, we just found a way to win,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “In physical games like this you just have to make plays. It’s not so much what you’re running at that point, you just have to make plays. I think our guys showed a lot of toughness to get through this one.”
“I thought the guys battled hard,” Pope said. “I thought they competed. Mark Pope said. “I thought they were super engaged the whole game. I thought they stuck together.”
“It was a war, man. They’ve got a good team and they always play us well. This is a good little parting gift from the Kennel, I guess,” Timme said.
Spencer Johnson and Fousseyni Traore led the Cougars with 17 points apiece, but BYU (16-12, 6-7) lost for the fifth time in its past seven games.
Gonzaga held a slim lead for nearly the entire first half, but a 3 from Noah Waterman with 25 seconds left gave the Cougars their first lead, 37-34, going into halftime.
BYU led by a basket with 3:40 remaining but couldn’t keep up down the stretch as Gonzaga came from behind to complete the season sweep.
Gonzaga managed to outrebound BYU 19-12 in the second half after losing that battle in the first period, and Cougars coach Mark Pope felt that was the turning point.
BYU has dropped two straight and fallen into the middle of the WCC pack. The Cougars next host Santa Clara Thursday night at the Marriott Center.