PROVO, Utah – Brigham Young took No. 2 Gonzaga down to the wire Thursday night. The close call may not be enough to get the Cougars an NCAA tournament bid.
"I think they'll have to win our tournament now," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said, referring to next week's West Coast Conference tournament in Las Vegas. "But they're more than capable of doing that."
Kelly Olynyk scored 19 points and Gary Bell Jr. hit four 3-pointers for the Bulldogs (28-2, 15-0 WCC), who host Portland on Saturday and a win there could mean Gonzaga's first-ever No. 1 ranking.
Gonzaga led by 11 points with 10:51 left but BYU fought back. Consecutive 3-pointers by Brock Zylstra, another by Craig Cusick and two free throws by Brandon Davies tied it at 60 with 4:18 remaining.
"They hit some big tough shots over hands, including some 3s that were very difficult," Few said.
Olynyk hit a key jumper down the stretch and Kevin Pangos made two free throws to help seal it.
BYU had one final chance with 6.6 seconds remaining and down three points but Gonzaga fouled Cusick before he could attempt a 3.
Tyler Haws had 19 points for BYU (20-10, 9-6).
Davies added 12 points and 11 rebounds in his final home game for the Cougars despite being plagued by foul trouble.
The Bulldogs won the first meeting in Spokane, Wash., by 20 points.
Olynyk was nearly perfect in the first game, going 9 of 9 from the field and 8 of 8 from the free throw line for 26 points.
This time, he probably felt as if he were in a football game as it was rough-and-tumble from the start, with a former Cougars football player even called for an intentional foul on Olynyk as he drove the lane. He finished 7 of 10 from the field.
Bell was the lone Gonzaga player to have any success shooting the 3. Pangos was 1 of 12 from beyond the arc and the Bulldogs 6 of 30 overall from 3-point range.
"Their zone was very, very content on taking away (Olynyk) in the high post. They were really squeezing him there. They played so hard in their zone that it was tough to find any openings. We tried to attack it inside out, and those were good shots. (Pangos) going 1 for 12 is, I don't think I've seen him do that in three months. I mean those were all good looks," Few said.
Pango said he tried to make BYU respect him for doubling down inside.
"If I had to do it over again I'd take the same shots," Pangos said.
But Gonzaga held BYU to 36.5 percent shooting and had a marked advantage at the free throw line. The Bulldogs made 20 of 34 attempts, compared to 13 of 22 for BYU.
BYU's hopes of a seventh straight NCAA appearance may come down to winning the WCC tourney. The Cougars could see their streak of six consecutive 25-win seasons end.
At least the Cougars know they pushed Gonzaga to the limit.
"I thought our guys got us into a position where we could have won the game," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "A missed rebound here and a couple missed shots; it could have been a different story."