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Provo • Color the BYU Cougars impressed, though not victorious.

Gonzaga rode into the sold-out Marriott Center with its No. 8 national ranking and almost-spotless record and escaped with an 87-80 win, while convincing the Cougars that they are every bit worthy of being called a bonafide Final Four candidate.

"This was a great team, a top-10 team in the country, so you know you have your hands full coming into it," BYU guard Anson Winder said. "They are legit."

The Cougars (10-4) won't get another shot at the Zags (12-1) until the West Coast Conference finale in Spokane on Feb. 28, but will do well to give Gonzaga the kind of trouble they did on Saturday afternoon. They have never won at the Kennel in their first three seasons in the WCC, and the games haven't been close.

Not so in Provo, where BYU downed GU 73-65 last year and looked for moments Saturday like an upset might be in the cards.

Then stars Kevin Pangos, Gary Bell Jr. and Kyle Wiltjer and Gonzaga's superior talent and balance took over.

"Well, the balance of [Gonzaga] is really good," BYU coach Dave Rose said of Mark Few's team. "He's got guys in every spot that can make tough plays in tough times. Pangos was the guy tonight who really kind of, when they were stuck, made a couple threes and got them going and got to the free-throw line.

" But everybody fed off him. It is a pretty balanced team," Rose continued. "Hopefully the next time we play them we are a better team and can make a better game out of it."

The Zags were without freshman Josh Perkins (broken jaw) and part-time contributor Angel Nunez, who was ill and didn't leave the locker room. Junior center Przemek Karnowski played through a sprained ankle and scored nine points and grabbed 10 rebounds.

Byron Wesley, a senior graduate transfer from USC, had 15 points and 10 rebounds and made some huge plays down the stretch.

"We had a couple of possessions where they were better than we were, rebounding the ball," Rose said, after the Zags won the battle of the boards, 40-35. "And that is tough because we played small most of the night, because we didn't get off to the best start with our big guys. So we will try to figure out a way to make that happen."

The Cougars got to the line more often, shooting 31 free throws and making 27 to just 15-for-21 for the visitors, but GU was efficient in the half court game, assisting on 22 of its 32 baskets.

Twitter: @drewjay —

Gonzaga's best second-half shooting

Player FG-FGA 3FG-3FGA

Kevin Pangos 5-7 4-5

Gary Bell Jr. 1-4 1-3

Kyle Wiltjer 6-12 1-2

Silas Melson 1-1 0-0