Joseph Hovey | Posted: 11 Feb 2023 | Updated: 2 Mar 2023

Foul trouble, Zags' late comeback too much for BYU in 88-81 loss

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Dallin Hall Gonzaga 2022-23

SPOKANE, Wash. — BYU men’s basketball led for over 13 minutes, including a game-high six point edge, before foul trouble and an absence of second half 3-pointers undid the Cougars’ upset bid in an 88-81 loss to No. 16 Gonzaga at The Kennel on Saturday night.

"I thought the guys battled hard. I thought they competed," head coach Mark Pope said. "I thought they were super engaged the whole game. I thought they stuck together.”



Spencer Johnson and Fousseyni Traore led BYU with 17 points a-piece. Traore shot 7-of-10 from the field and 3-for-3 from the free throw line while Johnson added a career-high seven assists. Noah Waterman and Rudi Williams came off the bench to provide valuable minutes. Waterman scored 12 points and Williams added 11. Jaxson Robinson posted 10 points as well to give the Cougars a balanced five in double figures.

The see-saw battle of WCC rivals included seven ties and four lead changes before the Zags again rode a Julian Strawther 3-pointer to pull away from BYU in the closing seconds.

Rudi Williams weaved through defenders and knocked down a floater in traffic to give BYU a 63-57 lead with 8:38 to play. Gonzaga quickly responded, halving the Cougars’ newfound lead with a timely trey from guard Malachi Smith. A Drew Timme trip to the free throw line and subsequent fastbreak score lifted the Zags in front of BYU at 64-63; the home team’s first lead of the half. After another 2-for-2 trip to the charity stripe, Gonzaga had mounted a 9-0 run to lead 66-63.

While the Zags appeared poised to runaway with their lead, the Cougars weathered the run and answered with a turnaround jumper from Spencer Johnson to pull within one. Gonzaga shuffled ahead again at 68-65 following a Nolan Hickman jumper. BYU’s Fousseyni Traore then arrived on the scene, single-handedly mounting a 6-0 run to put the Cougars back in front at 71-68 with 4:21 to go. Traore’s flurry of scores included a steal and fastbreak dunk followed by a reverse lay-in.

Strawther fired right back and squared the game at 71 on a friendly bounce 3-pointer. The Cougars had one more response in them as they regained a 73-71 lead with Traore finding Atiki Ally Atiki on an entry pass for a score in the paint.

The Zags then turned to Strawther and Rasir Bolton for successive 3-point makes to rebuild a 77-73 lead. Two made free throws from Ally Atiki kept BYU within striking distance before Strawther again delivered the Cougars a dagger three points, these coming in free throw form. Strawther’s three free throws put the game out reach for the Cougars at 80-75 with 37.1 seconds remaining.

In traditional fashion, the Gonzaga-BYU box score showed a closely contested clash. The Zags shot 51% from the field to BYU’s 48 though the Cougars posted a slight edge of 33% from distance to the Zags’ 32. BYU’s seven first-half 3-pointers were key to its mid-game lead. A paltry one 3-pointer in the second half kept the Cougars’ offense grounded. Gonzaga narrowly won the rebounding battle 34-33 while BYU held the edge on the offensive glass at 9-8. The Cougars outscored Gonzaga 38-32 in the paint and 18-14 in fastbreak points.

Gonzaga made 34 attempts at the free throw line, converting 26. BYU on the other hand, knocked down 11 free throws on just 12 attempts. The Cougars sustained 28 personal fouls, 17 alone in the second half. Johnson was the lone Cougar to escape with just one foul. Traore, George and Ally Atiki were each burdened for much of the second half by three or more.

Strawther led Gonzaga with 26 points while Timme put up 19.

The game began with BYU using physical defense and efficient ball movement to roar back from an initial 14-5 deficit. A Gideon George putback tied the game at 18 and BYU marched its way to a 37-34 halftime lead after Dallin Hall ripped the ball away from Timme and delivered it to Waterman for a late shot clock trey.

BYU returns home on Feb. 16 for its penultimate regular season home game in a matchup with Santa Clara. Watch the Cougars and Broncos live at 7 p.m. MST on CBS Sports Network or listen on BYU Radio Sirius XM 143, app, KSL 102.7 FM/1160 AM

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