The BYU Cougars put together their best performance of the season in stunning the No. 1 ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs 79-71 at The Kennel on Saturday night.
Eric Mika led the way for the Cougars with 29 points on 10-of-14 shooting from the floor, including a 19-foot jumper with 66 seconds remaining to break a 71-71 tie. He also chipped in with 11 rebounds and two blocks as the Cougars won their third straight game at the McCarthy Athletic Center in Spokane, Washington.
TJ Haws added 17 points on the strength of a 5-of-9 shooting night from 3-point range while Elijah Bryant contributed 14 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals as BYU improved to 21-10 on the season.
Nigel Williams-Goss paced the Bulldogs with 17 points, while Johnathan Williams chipped in with 12 points and 12 rebounds in their first defeat of the season.
Why the Cougars won
BYU made big play after big play on offense and defense in the closing minutes. The Cougars scored the last 10 points of the night, including huge baskets from Bryant, Mika and Corbin Kaufusi. They also got stops on the defense end as they forced three Gonzaga turnovers in the Bulldogs' final four possessions.
The turning point
Trailing 60-53 midway through the second half, the Cougars ran off eight straight points to take their first lead of the night. Nick Emery was massive in the run with his only two field goals of the game on back-to-back 3's before Mika scored to give BYU the lead.
What it means
It was a monumental win for the Cougars, who knocked off the No. 1 ranked team in the country for the first time in school history.
Kaufusi's stat line might look a pedestrian at four points, four rebounds and a block, but make no mistake, he played huge. He provided solid defense early in the game and came away with the biggest rebound of the night as he grabbed an offensive board and then finished at the rim to give the Cougars a four-point lead with 19 seconds left.
Grading the performances
The Cougars provided one of their best games against their best opponent of the season. They played a dominant second half as they outscored the Bulldogs by 14 points thanks in large part to defense and hustle. They limited Gonzaga to just 33.3 percent shooting from the floor in the second stanza, including 1-of-10 shooting from 3-point range. They also turned their good defense into offense with 12 second-half points off turnovers.
The Bulldogs didn't have a good night shooting the ball from outside the paint in tying a season low with just three made 3-point shots and missed 13 free throws.
The also had a difficult time with ball security with 16 turnovers that led to 20 BYU points. Sharing the basketball wasn't a positive either as they handed out just eight assists on 26 made field goals.
On the plus side, they scored 42 points in the paint, outscored the Cougars 12-0 in fast break points and shot 59.3 percent from the floor in the first half.
Three telling stats
With 29 points Mika now has 1,016 in his two seasons at BYU, making him just the third player in school history to reach the 1,000-point mark as a sophomore. Danny Ainge and Tyler Haws are the others.
After digging themselves a 16-point hole in the first 5:30 of the game, the Cougars outscored the Bulldogs 77-53 the rest of the way.
The Bulldogs made just 16 of 29 free throws in the defeat and shot 18.8 percent from the 3-point line. It was their most missed free throws in a game this season and their worst shooting performance from beyond the arc since shooting 15.8 percent against the UCLA Bruins in the 2015 NCAA Tournament.
The Cougars will head to Las Vegas for the West Coast Conference Tournament where they will be the No. 3 seed.