Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
LAS VEGAS — BYU stumbled against Gonzaga, 77-58, Saturday night in the West Coast Conference Tournament semifinals before a sellout crowd of 7,828 at the Orleans Arena.
Its short-lived run in the tournament has ended.
And now, for the Cougars, the excruciating waiting game begins.
BYU's fate is in the hands of the NCAA selection committee, which unveils the Field of 68 a week from today. And if the last impression on the committee's mind is of Gonzaga's dominating victory, that doesn't bode well for the Cougars.
BYU is hoping its shot at a sixth consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance hasn't slipped away, like the way players slipped on the midcourt logo at the Orleans Arena in the first half.
It's out of the Cougars' control.
No. 3 seeded BYU fell to 25-8 overall while No. 2 Gonzaga, which maintained a double-digit lead throughout almost the entire game, improved to 25-5.
"Gonzaga played outstanding," said Cougar coach Dave Rose. "They came out from the opening tip very aggressive. Our problem was offensively. We had trouble scoring and we rushed things. Gonzaga was good for 40 minutes."
The 'Zags, who were in charge from start to finish, have now won 15 consecutive WCC Tournament semifinal games, and they will face top-seeded Saint Mary's in the WCC Tournament championship game on Monday night. The Gaels defeated San Francisco in other semifinal contest, 83-78.
Certainly, BYU must be feeling pangs of disappointment after their lackluster performance, and they won't soon forget the performance of freshman Bulldog guard Kevin Pangos. The WCC newcomer of the year lit up the Cougars for 30 points, just short of his career-high of 33 that he scored against Washington State back in November.
Pangos victimized BYU, connecting on 10-of-17 field goals, including 5-of-6 from 3-point territory.
"Pangos made big plays and he got their team going," Rose said. "He's a good player."
"Defensively, we didn't rise up to the challenge," said Charles Abouo. "It's my fault. A lot of it (covering Pangos) was my assignment."
Meanwhile, Gonzaga forward Elias Harris recorded a double-double, with 10 points and 15 rebounds.
A horrifically bad start doomed BYU. The 'Zags never trailed and the Cougars found themselves playing catch-up all night long.
Pangos drilled a pair of 3-pointers in the game's opening four minutes to put the flustered Cougars on their heels and put them in an early hole, 17-5.
At one point, Gonzaga fans began taunting BYU fans with the chant, "Why so quiet?"
And it got worse from there — as BYU trailed 30-12 with less than eight minutes left in the half.
"Our defense was consistent all night," said Gonzaga coach Mark Few. "For the most part, we limited their shots."
It got so bad that Rose was whistled for a technical foul, just the third of his career.
The Cougars limited the Bulldogs to just eight points the rest of the half, but they couldn't capitalize, though they did cut the deficit to 12 at halftime, 38-26.
BYU shot an abysmal 32 percent from the floor in the first half, compared to a red-hot 56 percent for Gonzaga. The Cougars had 11 first-half turnovers. Pangos finished the half with a game-high 12 points for the Bulldogs.
"They jumped out on us and we didn't do a good job of responding," said Abouo. "We tried to get a five-point possession and we got ahead of ourselves."
And despite all of that, BYU was fortunate to only be trailing by 12 at halftime.
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