Provo • It wasn't the near-perfect performance their fans have come to expect from the No. 2-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs not even close but it was still enough to hold off upset-minded BYU late Thursday night at the raucous Marriott Center.
But just barely.
Kelly Olynyk scored 19 points and hit a clutch jumper with less than a minute remaining and the Zags avoided a major scare with a 70-65 win over the Cougars in front of 19,731 fans.
"We had them, but they just made the plays that we couldn't," said BYU senior Brock Zylstra, who hit three 3-pointers to fuel the Cougars' comeback.
Gonzaga improved to 28-2 overall, 15-0 in West Coast Conference play, while BYU fell to 20-10 and 9-6. It was Gonzaga's fourth straight win over BYU, but by far the closest.
"With the loss, I don't if there's any consolation," Zylstra said, adding that the performance gave the Cougars confidence that they can hang with Gonzaga in the WCC tournament, if it comes to that.
The Cougars trailed 63-62 with under two minutes remaining, but missed seven straight shots including three on the same possession when they were trying to take their first lead of the game.
Olynyk hit a jumper with 45 seconds left to give the Zags a 65-62 lead, and after two more BYU misfires, Kevin Pangos seemingly sealed the win with a pair of free throws to push the lead to five.
"This is a dang good team, BYU," said Gonzaga coach Mark Few. "I would much rather been in a 30-point blowout, trust me."
Craig Cusick made three free throws with seven seconds left to keep the outcome in doubt. Elias Harris made one of two free throws a second later, and the Cougars seemingly had a chance to tie it with 5.6 second left out of a timeout.
But Gonzaga wisely fouled Cusick to keep him from shooting a 3-pointer, and he missed the free throw. Harris made a pair of free throws with 2.9 seconds left to seal it.
"It was crazy in there," Zylstra said of the noise when the Cougars tied the score with four minutes remaining.
Tyler Haws led BYU with 19 points after scoring just a point at Spokane a month ago, and Davies added 12 points and 11 rebounds. But the Cougars were just 13 of 22 from the free-throw line, and that proved costly.
"I thought our guys got ourselves in a position where we could win," Rose said. "… It could have been a different story. We had quite a few chances."
After Gary Bell and Cusick exchanged 3-pointers to open the second half, the Zags started to pull away when the Cougars went five possessions without scoring and Olynyk began to take control. The Zags went up 45-36 when Pangos hit his first 3-pointer after missing his first eight.
The Zags scored four points on one possession midway through the half when footballer Bronson Kaufusi took out Olynyk and was hit with a flagrant foul. Olynyk missed one of the free throws, but reserve Kyle Dranginis made a 3-pointer on the possession to put the WCC champs up by 11.
But BYU wasn't about to go away.
"Our energy level was good, our competive juice was good, but we didn't execute offensively as well as we should have," Rose said, echoing Zyltra's sentiments that BYU would love a rematch in Las Vegas.
R The Cougars tie the game with about 4 minutes to play, but can't pull off the upset against No. 2 Gonzaga.
• Zags center Kelly Olynyk scores 19 points and hits a key jumper with less than a minute remaining in the game.
• Tyler Haws scored a team-high 19 points for BYU.