Wiltjer scores 21 as Zags down BYU 71-68 for share of WCC
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Gonzaga earned a share of its fourth consecutive West Coast Conference regular-season championship Saturday night. The Bulldogs have now won 18 conference titles and 15 in the last 16 years.
Kyle Wiltjer scored 21 points as Gonzaga defeated BYU 71-68 in the regular-season finale for both teams on Saturday night.
''It's where we're supposed to be,'' Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. ''It's where we expect to be.
''When (Przemek Karnowski) went down, I wasn't sure we could do that. He's such a huge, huge part of who we are and that was the plan this year. (It) really exposed us for a while.''
Gonzaga (23-7, 15-3) secured the No. 2 seed in the West Coast Conference tournament. Saint Mary's (15-3), which holds the tiebreaker over the Bulldogs, beat San Francisco on Saturday night for the No. 1 seed.
Gonzaga seemed poised to run away with the game after taking a 60-48 lead midway through the second half, but BYU went on a 11-2 run capped by a Nick Emery 3-pointer to cut the lead to 62-59.
Domantas Sabonis answered with six straight points for Gonzaga to keep the Cougars at bay. Sabonis finished with 15 points and 13 rebounds for his 19th double-double of the season, including 12 in last 14.
''I was on the bench previously and saw weren't getting any buckets and on defense wasn't getting stops,'' Sabonis said. ''I had to try and take over. I had to start making some shots.''
Chase Fischer led BYU (22-9, 13-5) with 18 and Kyle Collinsworth finished with 15 points and 14 rebounds. BYU turned the ball over on its final possession before a last second full-court miss. The Zags missed their last five shots of the game after trailing 70-68, including two Emery 3-pointers.
''It was quite a game,'' BYU coach Dave Rose said. ''Two teams that I thought were battling pretty hard. A lot on the line. … They've got a tremendous team and program. They're on quite a roll right now.
''I feel for my guys. They fought hard. It wasn't our best game, but we battled really hard.''
BYU struck first in the first half with a 7-0 run highlighted by a 3-pointer and fast-break layup from Emery to take a 24-18 lead.
Then Wiltjer warmed up.
The WCC's top scorer scored eight points on a variety of hooks and floaters, along with an up-and-under move during a 16-1 run that gave the Bulldogs a 36-27 lead. BYU went cold during the run and failed to score a field goal for 6:28.
The Cougars cut the lead to four thanks to four points from the free-throw line and went into halftime trailing 38-34.
''It's tough, but there are positives from this,'' Collinsworth said. ''It makes us more hungry. When we play them again, we're going to be more hungry.
''At this point, we have nothing to lose. It gives us that mindset – just go into the tournament and give it all we have.''
Gonzaga: The Bulldogs have held their last 11 opponents under 70 points. …Gonzaga has shot a higher field goal percentage in 26 of 30 games this year.
BYU: The Cougars shot just 29.7 percent from the floor, including 35 percent from behind the arc, in the first half. … Chase Fischer became the 48th player in BYU history to score 1,000 career points (1,010). … BYU shot 32.8 percent from the field, their second lowest mark of the year. … Collinsworth's double-double was the 34th of his career, tying Alan Taylor for the third most in school history.
Gonzaga shot 58.3percent from the field in the first half, but didn't capitalize because of 11 first-half turnovers. The Cougars scored 10 points off turnovers in the half. Gonzaga entered the game averaging 10.3 turnovers per game in conference play.
''It's a pride thing,'' Wiltjer said. ''Gonzaga has taken control of the WCC the last whatever years. For us seniors, it's just a matter of a pride thing.''
Both teams travel to Las Vegas for the WCC tournament.