We have no choice but to bounce back. —McKay Cannon
SPOKANE — As the saying goes, lightning never strikes the same place twice, let alone three times.
But BYU has defied the odds three consecutive times here with three wins in a row at Gonzaga.
Each win was improbable, especially last season's shocking 79-71 victory over a Zags squad that entered the game ranked No. 1 and boasting a 29-0 record. The Bulldogs’ only other loss was in the national championship game against North Carolina.
Could the Cougars pull off a fourth straight road win Saturday (8 p.m., MST, ESPN2) against the No. 14 Zags at The Kennel?
An upset this time seems even more unlikely since the Cougars are coming off a 76-69 loss at Loyola Marymount Thursday night. It was a setback that seriously damaged NCAA Tournament at-large hopes for BYU.
Now, the Cougars get a shot at a ranked opponent on the road.
“We have no choice but to bounce back. We’ve got to find out who we really are,” said guard McKay Cannon. “There’s always times during a season when you have to man up and look each other in the eyes and know what’s next. Are we going to falter or come together and prove ourselves? That’s all we can do.”
“This one’s over. What can you do about it? You learn from it and move on to the next one,” said forward Yoeli Childs. “The most important thing is the Zags on Saturday. We don’t lose two in a row. We’ll come out with that edge and that mindset that we’re going to go into this place and win.
"We feel like we’re a great team. No matter what happens, we drop a game, we know we’re great, we know the work we’ve put in. We’re going to come out and do everything we can to get this win against a very good team.”
Against LMU, BYU made just 5 of 24 3-pointers and turned the ball over 16 times, with the Lions scoring 16 points off those turnovers. LMU’s James Batemon scored 28 points and Eli Scott chipped in 19.
“I don’t know which is uglier, the stat sheet or the actual game itself,” Rose said. “We had a hard time guarding them. We knew the matchup would be really tough because of how they play. The two guys, Scott and Batemon, are really good isolation, one-on-one guys.
"They did a good job of spreading us out and driving us. We turned the ball over early and they just got it straight to the front of the rim and scored on us. We were playing from behind the whole time.”
Guard TJ Haws was 2 of 9 from the floor, including 1 of 7 from 3-point territory.
“We have great shooters. It’s surprising to miss shots like that. But it happens,” Childs said of BYU’s awful 3-point shooting. “You’ve got to understand that when you go on the road, you might not shoot the way you shoot but you’ve got to play defense and we didn’t play defense the way we needed to tonight. We played horrible on the defensive end.”
Gonzaga is coming off a 69-59 home victory over San Diego Thursday night. The balanced Bulldogs are led by Johnathan Williams, who averages 13.7 points, Josh Perkins (13.2) and Killian Tillie (12.3), Zach Norvell, Jr. (12.0) and Rui Hachimura (11.0) and Silas Melson (10.6).
Gonzaga freshman reserve guard Jesse Wade, who has played in 15 games and averages 1.7 points per game, served in the same mission as Haws, in the France Lyon Mission.
Wade was named 2015 Deseret News Mr. Basketball after scoring 1,367 points at Davis High and averaging 26.8 points per game as a senior. He committed to play for the Zags in 2013.
“He was a great missionary and fun to be around,” Haws said. “He worked really hard and his French was awesome. It’s probably cool for him because Killian Tillie is French and he actually served where he was from. I’m sure they have a lot to talk about up there. I’m looking forward to seeing him.”
BYU guard Elijah Bryant, who scored 24 points and dished out five assists against LMU, absorbed a hard blow to his face during the first half Thursday. He missed the final six minutes of the half but returned to play in the second half.
What's Bryant's status?
“We’ll see. He still feels it. He got scraped across the face pretty good," Rose said. "But he’s a tough kid. He stayed in there and played hard and competed.”
Rose knows the challenge his team is facing Saturday.
“You treat every game as an individual challenge. We’ll regroup here and get ready for the Zags. They’re a really, really talented team,” he said. “A lot of the same things that we’ve got to make sure that we’re cleaner and not turn the ball over. We can’t give up multiple shots on the same possession. We’ve really got to make sure it’s different in that game than it was in this game if we want a different outcome.”
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Cougars on the air
BYU (18-6, 7-4)
at No. 14 Gonzaga (20-4, 10-1)
Saturday, 8 p.m. MST The Kennel
Radio: 1160 AM, 102.7 FM