PROVO — If nothing else, BYU can empathize with No. 8 Gonzaga.
The Zags fell to No. 13 Butler, 64-63, on the road Saturday when Roosevelt Jones stole an inbound pass with 3.5 seconds left and hit a shot from inside the foul line as the buzzer sounded.
“It was all great, except the last 3.5 seconds," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said of the game. "Actually the last point-one seconds.”
The Cougars know how the Zags feel. They lost, 70-69, on a last-second shot against Saint Mary's last Wednesday.
And just moments after BYU bounced back with a 74-57 victory over San Diego Saturday night, Cougar coach Dave Rose watched the end of the Gonzaga-Butler game with more than just a casual interest.
It just so happens that BYU (15-5, 5-1) and Gonzaga (17-2, 4-0) meet Thursday (9 p.m. MST, ESPNU) in Spokane.
"They're going to be probably a little bit upset," said Rose. "We're going to have to be ready for it."
Rose and the Cougars also suffered a heartbreaking loss to Saint Mary's when Gael guard Matthew Dellavedova drained a 35-footer at the buzzer. Just 2.5 seconds earlier, BYU's Tyler Haws made a tough shot that could have been the game-winner.
For Gonzaga, Saturday's defeat marked just its second loss of the season.
"It'll sting extra hard," Rose said. "When you don't lose much, it really hurts. That's just how the business is."
Certainly, BYU is in for a tough game with the Zags at the McCarthey Athletic Center, also known as "The Kennel."
"We look forward to a huge challenge next week," Rose said. After playing Gonzaga, the Cougars visit Portland on Saturday.
BYU forward Brandon Davies, who scored 17 points and grabbed seven rebounds against San Diego, said this is an important week for his team.
"We have to focus in and get these road wins. They're tough to get away from home. It's a big deal," Davies said. "If you can get these wins in conference on the road, it does nothing but help your season. We've got to play our game and do our best."
Rose is impressed with Few's squad.
"It's a really talented team," Rose said. "Mark and I are actually pretty good friends. Some people are saying it's maybe the best group he's ever had. It's a deep group. They can score inside, and they're really talented on the perimeter. It's going to be a real challenge."
The Zags have three starters that average double-figures, led by junior 7-footer Kelly Olynyk, who averages 18 points per game. Elias Harris chips in 14.9 ppg and Kevin Pangos adds 12.1 ppg.
Meanwhile, Rose has been encouraged by the play of Cougar forward Nate Austin, who grabbed a game-high nine rebounds and had two blocked shots against San Diego in 32 minutes of action, as starter Josh Sharp found himself in foul trouble.
"Nate played great," Rose said. "You look at his numbers and they're workman numbers. But he was out there the majority of the game. His presence really caused problems (for San Diego). He had nine rebounds. Defensively, he altered and deflected a lot of shots."
Against Saint Mary's, the 6-foot-11 sophomore hit 3-of-4 shots from the floor and had four rebounds. Rose has enjoyed Austin's production recently.
"Nate is one of the guys the last three weeks that not a lot of people have been talking about," Rose said. "But as far as our coaching staff is concerned, he just continues to improve. The minutes that we're getting from Nate are better and better and better. Josh gives us one look at the 4, and Nate gives us a whole other look as far as his physical presence. That's good for the depth of our group."
And BYU will need a lot of depth, and solid play, when it travels to Gonzaga.
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