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.
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 the 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.
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.
It got so bad that coach Dave 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.
And despite all of that, BYU was fortunate to only be trailing by 12 at halftime.
Charles Abouo, who hit BYU's only 3-pointer of the first half, went to the locker room just before intermission with an injury, but he returned in the second half. Abouo had a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds.
Forward Noah Hartsock, who came off the bench to score 17 points and lead the Cougars to victory over San Diego in the quarterfinals on Friday, was less effective Saturday. Hartsock scored 12 points. Brandon Davies had a team-high 17.
In the second half, BYU switched to a zone defense and on the offensive end looked for Davies and Hartsock. Davies scored the Cougars' first six points of the half. Trouble for BYU was, Pangos scored seven during that span. He had 25 points with 13 minutes left in the game.
The Cougars had their chances to cut deeper into their deficit, but then would have a wasted possession, a missed free throw, or allow Pangos to score again.
For the game, Gonzaga shot 55 percent, compared to 38 percent for BYU.
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