BYU halts Gonzaga’s 41 game home court winning streak

The Cougars’ 73-70 shocker puts Duke back on the 1 seed line

Kyle Collinsworth and Skyler Halford simply don’t know the word quit.

Saturday night at the Kennel (on Senior Night nonetheless), they pulled off the Mormon school’s biggest upset since downing then No. 2 UCLA long before there was a shot clock, let alone the three-point line.  That victory happened on November 27, 1981.

BYU took the excitable crowd in Spokane out of things early and often.  The Cougars raced out to an 11-2 lead to start the game and scored 9 of the first 13 to open up the second half.  Gonzaga battled back to make things interesting twice–first to tie the game up at 36 going into the halftime break.

The Cougars had things seemingly well in hand with less than four minutes to go, but the ‘Zags roared back with 3:32 left.  A basket by Byron Wesley cut BYU’s lead to five at 66-61.  Collinsworth answered back at the other end with an old-fashioned three-point play.  Fellow senior Gary Bell, Jr. drilled a three nearly two minutes later as Gonzaga got a bit closer at 69-64 with 1:52 left.

After BYU made a turnover, Wesley was fouled hard on a drive to the basket and subsequently made both free throws.  With BYU maintaining a slim three point lead, they successfully killed most of the clock before Collinsworth scored off his own missed shot from 7 feet out on a put-back for the play of the game at 71-66 with 14 seconds left.  Seconds later, he fouled out–but not before finishing with a much deserved game high of 20 points on 8 of 17 shooting and 4 of 7 from the charity stripe in 35 minutes.

As part of a 20-11 run, Eric McClellan’s pair of free throws sliced the lead to one, 71-70.  However, only 2.6 seconds remained on the second half clock.

The Cougars inbounded the ball to their best free throw shooter in Ryan Andrus.  With 1.5 seconds left, he calmly sank both freebies to keep their three-point lead.

Instead of all-time Gonzaga three point king in Kevin Pangos attempting what would have been a game tying long distance shot, that honor went to Kyle Wiltjer.  The ex-Kentucky product fired a shot from 65 feet away just before the buzzer sounded, and the ball caromed off hard off the back of the rim.

Field goal shooting was not Gonzaga’s own worst enemy during this game–25 of 57 for a meager 43.9 percent.  BYU was nearly as bad, 25 of 59 for 42.4 percent.  Instead, the glaring stat was in the hustle plays–12 offensive rebounds by BYU to Gonzaga’s nine along with six blocks to only 4 for Gonzaga.

The honor for the nation’s longest home court winning streak going forward belong to the Arizona Wilcats at the McKale Center in Tucson.

And BYU finally gets their signature win–so look for them to possibly be dancing that first Thursday (or Tuesday again if they are sent back to Dayton).

Other upsets of note on Saturday included…

Kansas State scoring their second huge upset of the week at home, 70-69 over Iowa State.

Dayton topped VCU for a signature win on the road, 59-55 while Boise State pulled off a shocker of their own, 56-46 at San Diego State.

This upset leads to one very obvious question…

Could Gonzaga remain out West, even though their chances of earning the final number 1 seed appears to be slim and none?

Basically, you would have to hope that either Arizona, Wisconsin, or Villanova lose in their conference tournament openers for that to happen.  Villanova repeated their Big East regular season crown at Xavier for the second straight season.  And yes, Kentucky won outright the SEC title with yet another convincing win over Arkansas to go to 29-0.

Gonzaga’s only meaningful win in the eyes of the Committee was with Tulsa.  Duke has, by comparison has 4 wins against the RPI’s Top 25–along with a 6-2 record against teams ranked 26 through 50, and a stellar 5-1 mark against teams ranked 51 to 100 in the RPI.

But to answer the question, due to the pod system–more than likely, Gonzaga will be staying closer to home in Seattle during that first weekend before heading either to the East, Midwest, or South during the Sweet 16 round.

Well, it is officially March…my favorite time of the year!

In a few days, please look for the first of many short blogs highlighting each of the 31 conference tournament schedules.  Unlike last year, when I featured a huge Clip/Print and Save blog, I plan to give key chunks of the schedule on days when those tournaments are scheduled to begin.  During each day from March 3 through the 15, I will also plan to highlight how many automatic bids (conference title games) will be decided on those specific days–so look for that as well in those specific blogs.

For each tournament, key tip times and broadcast information will be included (online outlets will be given periodically for those sites that may not air every single game on ESPN3 or some other local television outlet located near specific campuses).

This week, several tournaments will start amongst the small and mid-sized schools.  Next weekend, the first set of automatic bids will be handed out.

As for the big schools, they are still in regular season mode and will continue to play this way until Sunday, March 8.

We generally know the exact groupings of the 1 and 2 seeds.  The time has come to determine the other 60 invitees for the 2015 version of The Big Dance.

This is going to be…FUN!  Hope it will be much fun for you as my fellow blog readers.  Take care, everybody.

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