BYU basketball report card: Cougars strategically overwhelmed by Bulldogs

Published: Sunday, Jan. 26 2014 3:46 p.m. MST

Associated Press

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 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: nategagon@hotmail.com or @nategagon.

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Elk Grove, CA

I love my Cougars, but I think coaching is a huge obstacle for the men's basketball and football teams. BYU has better coaching staffs in women's basketball, women's softball, and men and women's volleyball. The two main pilot sports are lacking in coaching while our less profitable sports continue to excel.

Federal Way, WA

I would like to see a response from the BYU coaching staff to see if they agree with your point made in this aticle. If any credibility to it, ask them how they plan to become more like Gonzaga.


I wasn't surprised to see the Zags pull away at the end. After the 3OT game on Thursday, I was surprised the Cougars hung in as long as they did.

Gilbert, AZ

Definitely the coach's fault. I mean, I can't believe how he streaked across the lane on three different occasions and then threw the ball directly into the hands of a Gonzaga player. Oh, wait, that was Halford (twice) and Haws (once). But I saw them practicing throwing the ball away and making stupid decisions, so it must be the coaches.

With the players he recruits, Rose does amazingly well. The one area in which ALL BYU athletes seem to suffer is ego! They routinely take other teams lightly. Is that on the coach? Maybe, but I remember my high school coach trying to beat into our heads to take the upcoming homecoming game against the 2-5 team seriously.... to no avail. We lost. Very embarrassing.... but NOT the coach's fault.

I frankly more scrutiny should be placed on Haws. He is a really good player, but his shot selection often leaves MUCH to be desired.


I think this is the most accurate analysis of the basketball team that I have read this year.
The defense is horrible and chaotic. The offense is pretty good but they don't always play well as a team. Rose and Pope are D-1 coaches but the other two need to move on. This team lacks discipline and their zone defensive scheme is fundamentally flawed. They can't decide how to defend the pick and roll and continually give up dribble penetration, which results in wide open threes. It comes down to either the coaches don't know what to do or the the players are incapable of carrying out an effective game plan. Maybe a little of both.

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