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Spokane, Wash. • BYU basketball coach Dave Rose has said all season that this young, inexperienced Cougar team will drive him nuts one minute, then do some exciting things the next.
Saturday night was definitely the latter.
BYU pulled off one of the biggest upsets in school history, surprising No. 1-ranked Gonzaga 79-71 in front of 6,000 crestfallen fans at sold-out McCarthey Athletic Center.
"Honestly, I thought we were going to win the whole time," said BYU guard TJ Haws, whose five 3-pointers, some from NBA range, fueled the upset.
But it was the inside play of BYU sophomore Eric Mika that turned heads the most. He finished with 29 points and 11 rebounds as the Cougars improved to 21-10 overall and 12-6 in the West Coast Conference.
Having clinched the WCC title outright on Thursday, the Zags fell to 29-1 and 17-1.
And their perfect season is over.
The Cougars said it was all about believing in themselves, even when Gonzaga led 18-2 early in the first half and 58-46 with 13:30 remaining in the second half.
It was BYU's third straight win at the Kennel, and second when Gonzaga was celebrating Senior Night. The win in 2015 snapped Gonzaga's 41-game home winning streak. This one could cost the Zags a No. 1 seed in March's NCAA Tournament.
"Coach Rose just hammered it home all week 'We are going in there to win this game,' " Mika said.
BYU's Elijah Bryant tied it at 71 with 1:52 remaining, and Gonzaga didn't score in the final two minutes.
"I thought our defense down the stretch was awesome," Haws said. "It helped us a whole bunch."
Nigel Williams-Goss led Gonzaga with 19 points after scoring 33 in the Zags' 85-75 win in Provo, and four other Zags reached double figures.
Both teams shot 45 percent, but the Zags missed 13 of 29 free throws and the Cougars made nine 3-pointers, to Gonzaga's three.
"The last two minutes our guys just made big plays, so, good win," Rose said. "I'm just proud of how our guys kept battling."
Thanks to a technical foul called on Gonzaga coach Mark Few, the Cougars gained some steam midway through the second half and took leads of 61-60, 63-62 and 64-63 after baskets by Mika and Haws.
Haws hit a 3-pointer to tie it at 67 apiece with 4:33 remaining, moments after Yoeli Childs went to the bench with his fifth foul.
The game could not have started worse for BYU. The Cougars made one of their first nine attempts, while the Zags hit eight of their first 11 shots. The result was a quick 18-2 lead for the home team, and BYU looked like it was in for a long night.
But the Cougars rallied big-time, and trimmed the deficit to one point twice before halftime.
During the under-12 minute timeout, Rose said he told his players in the huddle: "This is for us to take. Let's go take it."
And the Cougars did.
After Bryant's layup tied it at 71 with 1:52 remaining, Johnathan Williams missed a 10-footer for the Zags, and Mika scored on the other end. After a Gonzaga turnover, its 16th, Corbin Kaufusi made a putback basket and the Cougars started celebrating as the stunned student section chanted "NIT, NIT."
The Cougars could only point at each other and laugh. This time the joke was on the other guys.
R Eric Mika scores 29 points and BYU hands the No. 1-ranked Zags' their first loss of the season.
• BYU overcomes an early 18-2 deficit to post its third straight win on Gonzaga's floor.
• BYU finishes alone in third place in the West Coast Conference standings.