No. 7 Gonzaga defeats BYU for third straight WCC tourney title
Gonzaga’s players were like blurs up the floor, whipping passes, filling lanes, dropping in 3-pointers as their fans roared with each highlight.
These Zags are fun to watch — and hard to catch once they get out front.
Kyle Wiltjer had 18 points and 10 rebounds, and No. 7 Gonzaga shot its way past Brigham Young 91-75 Tuesday night for the Zags’ third straight West Coast Conference tournament title.
"We want to play the fast and can score with the best of them," said Wiltjer, the tournament MVP. "We wanted to just push the pace and did that."
Gonzaga (32-2), the regular-season champion, clinched its 14th WCC tournament by putting on an offensive show in an entertaining rematch of last year’s title game.
The nation’s best- shooting team during the regular season, the Bulldogs hit 53 percent inside Orleans Arena and made 8 of 12 from 3-point range.
Kevin Pangos had 16 points and five assists while orchestrating an efficient Gonzaga offense that had 15 assists and six turnovers.
Domantas Sabonis and Gary Bell Jr. added 15 points each for the Zags, who are expecting a high seed when the NCAA tournament selections are announced on Sunday.
"They love each other and just want to keep playing with each other, that’s been the base for this team all year," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "They want to keep winning so they can keep playing with each other."
BYU (25-9) tried to match the Zags shot for shot behind Kyle Collinsworth, but never quite caught them after Gonzaga went on an early second-half run to build a 12-point lead.
Collinsworth finished with 28 points, eight rebounds and five assists after posting a triple-double in the semifinals.
Tyler Haws added 15 points for the Cougars, who have to endure an agonizing wait until Selection Sunday for the second straight season.
"There’s a committee that makes that decision and If they watched us play, I think they’d feel pretty good about putting us in their tournament," BYU coach Dave Rose said.
The Zags have become a staple in the WCC title game, making their 18th straight appearance, the last 15 under Few
Gonzaga won the regular-season title for the 14th time in 15 years and is guaranteed to make its 17th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance.
BYU was still hovering around the NCAA tournament bubble, though its 14-point win over Portland in the WCC semifinal finals boosted its bid.
The Cougars were one of two teams to beat Gonzaga during the regular season, ending the Zags’ 41-game home winning streak with a 73-70 victory less than two weeks ago.
Gonzaga shot poorly in the second half of that game — 1 for 8 from 3-point range — and started slow in the title game, missing eight of its first 10 shots.
Once they got going, the Bulldogs seemed to take turns scoring.
Wiltjer, who has been bothered by a sore hip and had tape on his left shoulder, did the early damage, powering his way to the rim and hitting a pair of 3-pointers while scoring 12 first-half points.
Sabonis was next, scoring 11 points by bulling his way inside. Bell closed out the first half with a mix of 3-pointers and midrange shots, scoring 12 points to help the Zags to a 48-42 lead.
"When we’re in attack mode, there’s no doubt what’s when we’re at our best," Few said.
Collinsworth, BYU’s crafty point guard, did his best to keep the Cougars in it by himself, getting into the lane to score and draw fouls. He had 17 points by halftime, hitting 9 of 11 free throws.
Gonzaga turned to Przemek Karnowski down low to start the second half. Getting deep post position, the big man scored on three hook shots and Wiltjer added a 3-pointer to help put the Zags up 71-59.
Gonzaga kept making shots — 13 of 21 in the second half — and BYU was unable to chip away at the lead.
"When you get down against Gonzaga they have such a good point guard in Pangos that they know how to control the game, so it’s good to get a lead," Collinsworth said. "But it’s a game of runs, and we’d make our run but unfortunately weren’t able to hold it and get that lead."
BYU: The Cougars played without Anson Winder, their third-leading scorer and best perimeter defender, because of a knee injury. … Rose was called for a technical foul midway through the second half for arguing a call. … BYU has not won conference title since 2001
Gonzaga: Wiltjer made 7 of 12 shots and all three of his attempts from 3-pont range. … Karnowski finished with 12 points.