Young Kwak, AP
Gonzaga's Kevin Pangos, center, Drew Barham left, fight for a loose ball against BYU's Nate Austin (33) and Anson Winder during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game, on Saturday, Jan. 25, 2014, in Spokane, Wash. Gonzaga won 84-69. (AP Photo/Young Kwak)
BYU lost to Gonzaga 84-69 at the McCarthey Center in Spokane, Wash., Saturday night, and it didn't come as a surprise.
While the road team had little chance to win the game, however, it doesn’t mean the contest had no value for the visitors. If the Cougars were paying attention, there was a lot they could learn from their hosts. BYU got an opportunity to see — up close and personal — what it should aspire to be.
Gonzaga is BYU — with focus and a plan. Gonzaga doesn’t have better individual musicians in its orchestra, it has better direction and a clearer vision. If the BYU and Gonzaga players simultaneously executed a full range of individual basketball drills on opposite ends of the court, they would look almost identical.
When you put those same players on the court together and have them engage in a five-on-five game of team basketball, however, the Bulldogs generally made the game appear much easier and smoother than the Cougars. Saturday night inside the McCarthey Center, this was manifest in myriad ways.
The Bulldogs moved and attacked as a team and that allowed them to regularly find open shots from wherever they wanted them versus a scrambling, disoriented BYU defense. When the Cougars had the ball they mostly relied on individual players making individual plays against a more focused and organized Gonzaga defense.
The Cougars played extremely hard, which allowed them to stay in the game for quite a while. They trailed just 56-52 with 11 minutes left. As the game wore on, however, and legs got heavy, the Bulldogs’ superior sense of identity and execution won out.
BYU would have needed special individual performances from one or two of its players in addition to off nights from one or two of Gonzaga’s best players to win Saturday night on the road.
That didn’t happen, but Cougar fans can hope the BYU coaching staff and players learned something from the Bulldogs while taking a beating.
Here are the grades for each BYU position group and other aspects of the game.
Nate Gagon is a published sports, music, and creative writer. He is also a wholehearted father, grateful husband and ardent student of life. He shoots roughly 94% from the free throw line and can be reached at: email@example.com or @nategagon.