SPOKANE, Wash. — BYU's first game at The Kennel proved to be about as much fun as a trip to the veterinarian's office.
The Gonzaga Bulldogs pounded the Cougars in an ugly game Thursday night, 74-63, before a sellout crowd of 6,000 at the McCarthey Center, also known as The Kennel.
BYU coach Dave Rose did find a silver lining, however. He liked the way his team competed, especially since the cold-shooting Cougars had to play most of the game without injured forward Noah Hartsock.
"I'm proud of our guys. Our effort was tremendous," he said. "We didn't score the ball very well, and that was the difference in the game. … We played hard enough to win the game. We just needed to play better."
With the loss, the Cougars saw their five-game winning streak come to an ignominious end. Also, their hopes of an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament suffered a big hit. BYU might have to win next week's West Coast Conference Tournament in Las Vegas to guarantee a spot in the Big Dance.
League-leader Saint Mary's, which defeated Portland Thursday night, earned at least a share of the WCC regular season title while Gonzaga (22-5, 12-3) wrapped up a No. 2 seed by beating the Cougars (23-7, 11-4).
The Bulldogs still have a shot at winning their 12th consecutive regular-season league title, while BYU fell to third place in the WCC standings.
"That's a great win," said Gonzaga coach Mark Few. "That's a great win against an NCAA Tournament team. That was probably as physical as it has been all year for us. We did a great job defensively, and we did a great job finding a way to get ourselves on the free-throw line."
The Bulldogs, who lost by 10 points earlier this month at the Marriott Center, didn't play one of their better games, but fueled by its rowdy student section, led the Cougars almost from start to finish.
Gonzaga made only 16 (out of 41) field goals, eight fewer than BYU hit. The Cougars went 24-for-78 from the field — a miserable 31 percent — and 6-for-28 from 3-point territory.
"We fought hard and we didn't give up, despite our shooting percentage," said BYU's Brandon Davies. "It was one of those nights where our shots weren't falling."
Meanwhile, the Bulldogs knocked down 36-of-44 free throw attempts, compared to 9-of-16 for BYU.
Elias Harris led Gonzaga with 19 points and 12 rebounds while Davies recorded a double-double of his own, with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Charles Abouo had 10 points and 10 boards.
Hartsock, who is nursing an injured knee, played just seven minutes in the first half and did not attempt a shot.
Guard Matt Carlino, who was serenaded by the crowd with chants of "You're not Jimmer!" throughout the game, had 18 points. But he hit just 7-of-23 shots from the field.
The Cougars trailed by only seven points, 59-52, with less than four minutes remaining in the contest, but couldn't get any closer.
Both teams started the game cold, combining to miss their first nine attempts from the floor, and that was the major theme of the night.
BYU led, 5-3, before Gonzaga scored eight straight points, and the Bulldogs never trailed again. Gonzaga led by as many as 13 in the first half, thanks in part to 3-pointers by guards Kevin Pangos and Gary Bell, Jr.
At intermission, the Cougars were shooting a miserable 25 percent (11-for-44) from the floor and 21 percent (3-for-14) from the 3-point line. Just as bad for BYU, it went to the free-throw line just four times, while Gonzaga had 15 trips to the charity stripe, making 12.
Only three Cougars scored in the first half — Carlino (12), Abouo (8) and Davies (7).
In the early moments of the second half, the 'Zags quickly built their lead to 15 and managed to keep BYU at bay the rest of the way.
The Cougars return home for their final regular-season game Saturday when they host Portland (4 p.m., MST, BYUtv).
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