LAS VEGAS — Gonzaga blew Brigham Young’s doors off in the early going, then held on through some fragile moments late in the second half and won the West Coast Conference men’s basketball title, 75-64, here Tuesday night.
It gives the Zags a 16th straight NCAA tournament appearance.
Gonzaga (28-6) got out early, led by 17 at half and built the lead to 20 with 13:42 left, at which point BYU guard Kyle Collinsworth, in a tumble underneath the basket after transition, was taken off with an apparent knee injury.
Oddly, that’s when BYU (23-11) mounted a 10-0 run built on penetration and foul pressure on the Zags, to get it to 55-45.
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But Gonzaga carved out breathing room on a three-pointer by Kyle Dranginis and two possessions later, another by Gary Bell Jr. BYU would get the deficit to eight with 2:57 left, but Bell made two free throws and GU held the Cougars at bay.
Gonzaga grabbed control early and didn’t let off the throttle. BYU missed its first three shots, and on GU’s first possession, Bell drove to the hoop and scored.
The Zags were blinding in their efficiency. They made six of their first seven shots, 11 of their first 16 and 13 of their first 20. Bell’s right-corner trey made it 15-6, and Sam Dower Jr., who had 14 points before intermission, made it 22-9 with a six-foot flip on a feed from Przemek Karnowski.
A moment later, sub Drew Barham downed his second three of the half from the left corner, and with 10:30 left before the break, it was 25-9 and BYU coach Dave Rose tried to stem the momentum with a timeout.
Only sporadically did the Cougars do that. The Zags encountered some foul trouble as five players had a pair by halftime, but the reserves acquitted themselves well, as Dranginis tipped in a miss to make it 36-19.
The biggest lead was 44-23 on 7-foot freshman Ryan Edwards’ tip-in of Dranginis’ missed trey, but the Cougars pecked back with the last four points of the half.
BYU had a mere two assists before halftime and shot 33 percent against the Gonzaga man-to-man. David Stockton, continuing a superlative tournament, had five of GU’s 11 assists in the half and even turned in a soaring block of Anson Winder’s attempt in transition.
The Zags shot 61.3 percent on 19 of 31, four of seven from the three-point line.
Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or email@example.com