BYU's struggles from 3-point land return at a bad time

Published: Sunday, March 4 2012 12:15 a.m. MST

Brigham Young Cougars guard/forward Charles Abouo (1) and Brigham Young Cougars guard/forward Brock Zylstra (13) fight for a rebound Gonzaga Bulldogs forward Guy Landry Edi (10) in the West Coast Conference semifinals in Las Vegas Saturday, March 3, 2012.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

LAS VEGAS — The Cougars busted down in Vegas.

An old familiar blemish in BYU's game haunted them in a quest to rise up and win the WCC Basketball Tournament Saturday. The old 3-point shot bug.

Gonzaga sliced apart BYU 77-58 Saturday night before a sellout crowd of 7,828 in the Orleans Arena to advance to the championship game against No. 1 seed St. Mary's on Monday.

The 25-8 Cougars now have a long wait to find out if the NCAA wants them in the Big Dance.

To defeat Gonzaga or St. Mary's this season, the Cougars needed outside shots to fall. A team that's watched its archers suffer a case of wobbly elbow in January and February, BYU brought that weak act Saturday and it cost them.

On the other hand, BYU got schooled my Gonzaga freshman Kevin Pangos, who put on a clinic from beyond the 3-point line. His smooth, unrushed, balanced and confident shots were the artistic opposite of what the Cougars brought.

Pangos had his second-best scoring night of his career, 30, on 5-of-9 shooting from beyond the arc. The Cougars converted 3 of 18 from distance for 17 percent.

The killer was the long shot. In the first 12 minutes, Gonzaga made 3-of-4 as the Cougars went 0-for-4 from beyond the arc. Every time Gonzaga made a bomb from outside, it appeared to be a statement kind of thing.

BYU started this game 0-for-9 from distance, the first Cougar 3-point make came with 2:32 left in the first half from Charles Abouo.

The game started disastrously for the Cougars, like something out of "The Walking Dead."

Gonzaga came out on fire, hitting 7-of-10 shots, including a trio of 3-point shots to take a 21-7 lead. The Cougars looked disorganized, intimidated in taking harried shots and went 2- of-9 from the field.

The 'Zags looked outstanding on defense and were aggressive. On offense, Gonzaga looked confident as tax collectors. BYU appeared off balance and out of sync.

With 7:40 to play in the first half, Gonzaga was shooting 57 percent (12-of-21) and the Cougars were misfiring on 4-of-16 for 25 percent when Rose got a technical during a dead ball situation. He asked referee Ken Ditty to look at a monitor replay of 'Zag center Robert Sacre, who he believed threw an elbow at Davies under the basket in an attempt to score.

Rose asked for the review twice during a subsequent timeout and was whistled after a warning to stop talking. After the free throws Gonzaga led 30-14.

In all of Rose's years as BYU's coach, I've never seen him as animated over officiating as he's been this season. Rose has only two technicals in his BYU career, both this season in the WCC.

Ditty had just refused to talk to Rose's assistant Mark Pope and ordered him to stay away from him during the timeout when Ditty reacted to Rose.

This was not the reason BYU struggled, however. The Cougars played erratic for 15 minutes after the tip. When Gonzaga cooled off offensively, BYU could not take advantage and trailed 38-26 at the half. It was BYU's worst scoring half of the season.

Before the tip, I projected if BYU made more than seven treys and Hartsock scored more than 17, the Cougars would win.

Undoable.

Hartsock played 16 minutes in the first half and didn't make a field goal. He got his first bucket with 16:17 left in the game. He finished with 12 points on 4-of-9 shooting.

As a team, BYU could not match Gonzaga's Pangos, and by himself, kept the Cougars at bay with his firepower. His teammates fed off his shot.

A strange part of this game was the giant WCC logo on the middle of the Orleans Arena floor. Four times in this game BYU and Gonzaga players slipped and fell at the midcourt logo and the falls were not light but heavy. Two BYU falls resulted in Cougar turnovers and two Gonzaga falls led to backcourt violations.

It was a little symbolic for BYU; they let a longer stay here slip away.

The WCC's most prolific scoring offense this season, averaging 79 a game, managed a disappointing 58.

email: dharmon@desnews.com

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