SPOKANE, Wash. — After BYU lost a 114-110 heartbreaker in triple overtime at Portland Thursday, many wondered how the Cougars would respond when they visited Gonzaga Saturday night.
Perhaps a tired BYU team, playing its fourth straight road game, would roll over and play dead at The Kennel.
They say rebounding is a product of heart and desire, and the Cougars showed plenty of that in the first half before a sellout crowd of 6,000 at the McCarthey Center.
BYU trailed only by two at halftime as it scrapped for loose balls and held a big rebounding advantage against the Bulldogs.
“I was confident our guys would fight, and they did,” said coach Dave Rose. “They were active and got a lot of 50-50 balls.”
However, Gonzaga blistered the nets in the second half, rendering rebounds almost obsolete.
The Bulldogs shot 64 percent (18 of 28) over the final 20 minutes, and guard Kevin Pangos exploded for a game-high 24 points, including 21 points and five 3-pointers in the second half, as the Bulldogs defeated BYU, 84-69.
"We had a hard time locating Pangos," Rose said. "He got free and opened up the game on us."
“We battled really well with them in the first half,” said Cougar guard Tyler Haws. “They made a run in the second half. You’ve got to give them credit for hitting shots. We were up for the challenge. We just came up short.”
The Cougars fell to 13-9 overall and 5-4 in the West Coast Conference. League-leading Gonzaga improved to 18-3 and 8-1.
Pangos knocked down 9 of 14 shots, and was 6 of 10 from 3-point territory. Forward Sam Dower had 18 while David Stockton and Gary Bell each added 14.
For the game, Gonzaga shot 57 percent and knocked down 10 of 22 3-pointers.
“We just came out flat defensively (in the second half),” said BYU freshman forward Eric Mika.
Haws, who was 0 for 9 from the floor last year here, finished with a team-high 23 points. He was coming off a career-high 48 points in the loss to Portland.
Mika recorded a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, while guard Kyle Collinsworth had 23 points and seven rebounds.
At halftime, BYU trailed by just two points, 35-33.
But Pangos, who scored only three points at intermission, exploded for 11 straight Bulldog points, including three 3-pointers, during a five-minute span that gave Gonzaga a double-digit lead, 52-42.
“We had a stretch that killed us in the second half,” Haws said.
“We got off to a bad start in the second half,” Rose said. “Defense was the key, and we let it get away.”
The Cougars clawed back to 56-52 on a three-point play by Haws. But Pangos struck again moments later. And the Zags kept BYU at bay and cruised to the victory.
Did the Cougars simply wear down?
“As the game wore on, we got heavy legs,” Rose said. “We weren’t as quick and active as we were at the start of the game.”
“I don’t think it was an energy thing,” Haws said. “It was about being mentally locked in.”
BYU fell behind early to Gonzaga, 17-9, and it looked like this might turn into a rout.
But the Cougars battled back, rallying to put within 19-18 after a 9-2 run. Later in the half, BYU tied the game at 27-all on a Haws jumper.
What kept the Cougars in the game was their rebounding. BYU outrebounded the Bulldogs, 21-14, in the first half, including nine offensive rebounds, which resulted in a 10-0 advantage for the Cougars on second-chance points.
At that point, Mika had eight points, including three offensive boards in the first half. However, both he and BYU’s other big man, Nate Austin, each had two personal fouls at halftime.
Gonzaga was led by Dower, who scored 12 points, and Stockton, who also had 12 at the break.
For the game, BYU outrebounded the Bulldogs, 33-26.
The Cougars host WCC newcomer Pacific Thursday (7 p.m. MST, BYUtv).
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