Given the way in which No. 10 Gonzaga lost at Butler on Saturday night, with a turnover leading to Roosevelt Jones’ game-winner as time expired, it would have been easy for many teams to suffer a hangover of sorts.
That wasn’t an issue for Mark Few’s Bulldogs however, as the Bulldogs went on a 23-6 run in the first half on their way to a decisive 83-63 win over BYU in Spokane. Instead of simply going through the motions Gonzaga removed any doubt as to what the outcome would be before the game even reached halftime.
The play of big men Elias Harris and Kelly Olynyk was just one reason why Gonzaga was so effective on both ends of the floor. Harris finished with 25 points and ten rebounds and Olynyk led all scorers with 26 points to go along with nine rebounds and five assists.
How good was Olynyk? He didn’t miss a single shot, going 9-of-9 from the field and 8-of-8 from the foul line, and adding more evidence to the argument that he’s the favorite for WCC Player of the Year honors.
As a team the Bulldogs (18-2, 5-0 WCC) shot 56.9% from the field, doing a good job of finding quality looks from the field despite turning the ball over 19 times (the first time Gonzaga’s turned the ball over more than 16 times in a game this season). However Gonzaga’s emphatic victory wasn’t solely about what they were able to do offensively.
BYU sophomore guard Tyler Haws entered Thursday’s game as the leading scorer in the WCC and slowing him down was clearly something Gonzaga had to do in order to ensure victory. Haws finished the night having scored just one point on 0-of-9 shooting from the field, and when your leading scorer shoots that poorly it’s almost impossible to beat Gonzaga at The Kennel.
Overall BYU shot just 35.6% from the field, and after seven straight games of allowing opponents to shoot 40% or better from the field Gonzaga showed a renewed sense of urgency on the defensive end of the floor. That effort is something the Bulldogs can build upon, beginning with San Francisco on Saturday night.
Brandon Davies and Josh Sharp scored 14 points apiece for the Cougars (15-6, 5-2), who find themselves still in search of a victory that will bolster their NCAA tournament resume. As for Gonzaga, it was back to business as they continue on their quest to return to the top of the WCC.
Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.