The experts said BYU had to do one thing very well to have any chance of beating the bigger and stronger Gonzaga Bulldogs — make shots.
OK, the Cougars said Saturday in routing Gonzaga to advance to the Sweet 16 for only the second time in school history, whatever it takes. How does 52 percent shooting in the first half and 53 percent from 3-point range sound? How about shooting 53 percent for the game and 50 percent from 3-point range.
As expected, Jimmer Fredette got his points by scoring 34 on 11-of-23 shooting. What really helped BYU's cause, however, and was another key to defeating the favored Bulldogs was that his supporting cast showed up. They did.
Jackson Emery broke out of his scoring slump with 16 points, Noah Hartsock popped in 13, Charles Abouo scored eight and Stephen Rogers came off the bench to score 10 points in the opening half. In fact, the Cougars led by seven at halftime even though Fredette took only eight shots in the first 20 minutes.
The Cougars also survived another game of early foul trouble and withstood Gonzaga's inside punishment. Hartsock, Abouo, Rogers and James Anderson each had at least two fouls before halftime. No BYU players fouled out.
As expected, Gonzaga scored 36 points in the paint. For the most part, however, they were harmless points. At the halftime break, the Bulldogs had seven more rebounds than BYU and had a 7-0 edge in offensive rebounds. For the game, they had a 36-27 rebound advantage and 12-4 advantage on offensive boards. But Gonzaga managed to score only seven second-chance points.
Another key stat for BYU was the 20-6 advantage in points off turnovers. The Cougars opened the game up by shooting 75 percent over the first six minutes of the second half, while Gonzaga turned the ball over on three of its first four second-half possessions.
Gonzaga shot only 39 percent from the floor in the first half and hit only 1-of-8 3-pointers before the break. For the game, the Bulldogs made 42 percent of its shots and only 22 percent from deep. The number that tells it all is BYU's 36-point advantage in scoring from 3-point range.