SPOKANE, Wash. — BYU entered Thursday night's game at No. 10 Gonzaga looking to make a splash on national television against a top-10 opponent.
But the Zags quickly threw a wet blanket over those plans, as the Cougars found themselves down early against the powerful Bulldogs.
In the end, hot-shooting Gonzaga whipped BYU, 83-63, in front of a sellout crowd of 6,000 at the McCarthey Athletic Center.
"They're a great team," said Cougar forward Josh Sharp, who scored a career-high 14 points. "We just couldn't get it going in the first half."
For the game, the Bulldogs shot 57 percent from the field, compared to 36 percent for the Cougars.
"It's hard to beat a team that shoots that well," said BYU forward Brandon Davies.
The Zags, coming off a heartbreaking, last-second loss at Butler last Saturday, led from start to finish, and went up by as many as 23 points — 53-30 — early in the second half. Gonzaga took out its frustrations on BYU, which trailed by 19 at halftime inside "The Kennel."
Forwards Kelly Olynyk and Elias Harris scored 26 and 25 points, respectively, for the Bulldogs, and combined for 19 rebounds.
"They're both great players," said Davies, who had 14 points.
The Zags improved to 18-2 overall and 5-0 in the West Coast Conference. BYU fell to 15-6 and 5-2.
While the 7-foot Olynyk shot a perfect 9 for 9 from the floor (and 8 for 8 from the free-throw line) and Harris was 8 for 11, BYU star guard Tyler Haws, who entered the game averaging 21.6 points per game, was a shocking 0 for 9 from the field held scoreless until the waning minutes of the game. He did not score a field goal and finished with one point.
"They did a really good job on him defensively," coach Dave Rose said.
"They were chasing him around all night, not letting him get going," Sharp said.
In the second half, the Cougars continued scrapping and clawing, but it wasn't nearly enough.
BYU whittled the deficit to 64-52, after Haws scored his first, and only, point on a free throw, with a little more than seven minutes remaining.
"We picked things up defensively," Davies said. "We re-grouped. But it was a little too late."
One of the few bright spots for the Cougars was Sharp, who made 5-of-6 shots.
As a team, though, BYU was 4 for 17 from 3-point territory.
The Cougars fell behind quickly, 11-3, in the opening minutes and while BYU cut the deficit to 13-8, the Zags responded by extending their lead, thanks to easy buckets inside.
"I had opportunities to make plays, and I didn't," Davies said. "They were making plays and we weren't."
BYU made just four of its first 18 field goal attempts and ended the half 8 for 31 (26 percent) from the floor and 1 for 10 from 3-point range.
Haws was held scoreless in the first half. It marked only the second time this year he didn't score in a half. It also happened in a road loss at Baylor in December.
Fortunately for the Cougars, Sharp showed up, scoring 10 of BYU's 21 points in the first half. But he also picked up three first-half fouls, including a technical.
"I had some opportunities there," Sharp said of his performance. "(Gonzaga was) focused on Ty and Brandon, and I was open."
"Josh was kind of let free," Rose said. "We got the ball to Josh and he made some plays. He played hard and was really effective."
Gonzaga dominated inside against the Cougars, as Harris and Olynyk scored 14 points apiece by halftime. The Bulldogs shot 52 percent from the floor in the first half.
BYU trailed at intermission, 40-21, which was the Cougars' lowest scoring output in a half this season.
BYU visits Portland on Saturday.
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company