Top-ranked Gonzaga University, continuing its quest for an unbeaten season, prepares for the upcoming NCAA Tournament with a 26-0 record.
The Bulldogs defeated BYU 88-78 in the West Coast Conference Tournament final on Tuesday.
Zags coach Mark Few’s team overcame a 12-point halftime deficit en route to victory.
“We needed a game like that,” Few said afterward. “We had some adversity and got punched in the face.”
He added: “We got together at halftime and the guys just stuck with the plan.”
Freshman guard Jalen Suggs paced Gonzaga University, which made its 24th consecutive appearance in the WCC title game, with 23 points. Senior forward Corey Kispert scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half. Five Zags players scored in double figures, including Joel Ayayi, who put 18 points on the board.
Suggs nailed 3-pointers on back-to-back possessions late in the second half, giving the Bulldogs a nine-point lead with 1:28 remaining.
“I’ve been dreaming of playing college basketball all my life,” Suggs told repoters. “I was practicing on my Little Tikes hoop for these exact moments and for it to play out like this is crazy.”
Gonzaga University falls behind in first half
BYU built a 53-41 lead by halftime at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.
But Few’s squad would not be denied. The Bulldogs outscored the Cougars 47-25 the rest of the way.
BYU guard Alex Borcello, who finished with 15 points, was impressed with his opponent’s performance in the second half.
“Gonzaga responded in the second half,” Borcello said. “We had a really good first half, some shots didn’t fall in the second half, we didn’t grab a couple of rebounds and Gonzaga pulled away.”
Gonzaga chases history
With the NCAA Tournament on the horizon, Gonzaga University can savor its accomplishments to date this season. The Bulldogs are the fifth team in NCAA history to enter the tourney without a loss.
Who are the others?
The 1975-76 Indiana University squad, coached by Bob Knight, which claimed the national title to complete a 32-0 season.
Indiana State (1979), UNLV (1991), Wichita State (2014) and Kentucky (2015) all had perfect records heading into the NCAA Tournament, but all fell short of their ultimate goal.
The Bulldogs, of course, want to join Indiana in the record books.
Which is why Coach Few commented on the team’s aspirations after the WCC Tournament wrapped up.
“We finally acknowledged this is a big deal,” Few said. “It puts us in some incredible company. It’s a heck of an accomplishment.”
By late February, it was clear Gonzaga had a real shot at closing out the season without defeat. The Zags hammered Loyola Marymount 86-69 for their 51st straight home win on Feb. 27.