No. 2 Gonzaga added its name to list of top teams to take a loss on this late February weekend, falling to No. 23 BYU 91-78 in Provo, Utah. One of the most highly anticipated games on the West Coast Conference schedule delivered an end to Gonzaga's 40-game winning streak in conference play. BYU showed up with the hot hand and put the pressure on the Bulldogs early, jumping out to a 46-38 halftime lead and defending it through multiple waves of effort from the Zags in the second half.
Yoel Childs continued his late-season tear with a terrific performance, totaling a game-high 28 points and 10 rebounds on the evening that included his senior night celebration.
"I'm so happy for our guys. This is a senior laden team, they said they're going to give it one more shot," BYU coach Mark Pope told ESPN after the game. "These guys have been through so much, we could go through each individual story, they've been through setbacks and they keep coming back."
Perhaps most important was what the Cougars' win means for their NCAA Tournament chances. The WCC does not always guarantee the kind of profile that allows for multiple bids beyond Gonzaga, and while BYU's resume was already strong it is now solidified with the addition of a win against the Bulldogs.
And while Gonzaga sees its long conference winning streak come to an end, CBS Sports Bracketology Expert Jerry Palm notes that it doesn't change their standing as a projected No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
Three things to know about the game:
1. BYU, with Childs, is a dangerous tournament team: The Cougars are 15-2 with Childs in the lineup this season, and his double-double on Saturday night represents the expectation for what he's going to deliver in the biggest games of the season. BYU is one of the best shooting teams in the country, carrying the nation's No. 1 3-point field goal percentage and No. 2 effective field goal percentage into Saturday, and Childs provides a boost on the boards that can help overcome the stretches where the Cougars go cold. BYU's shooting and experience make them a dangerous tournament team, but Childs is the kind of difference-maker that can elevate a dangerous first weekend team into a dark horse Final Four contender.
2. Gonzaga's depth issues on display in the loss: Killian Tillie led the Bulldogs with 18 points but he also fouled out of the game, and that foul trouble brought a spotlight to the seven-man rotation that Mark Few uses for most of the team's competitive minutes. Foul trouble or any injury issue suddenly puts Gonzaga in a tight spot from a personnel perspective, and those matchup problems will be exploited by good teams. BYU counts as one of those good teams on the same caliber of one that Gonzaga will face in the NCAA Tournament with an Elite Eight or Final Four bid on the line. We've seen teams with short rotations win national championships before, but it's something to keep an eye on with the Zags.
3. Not just the players making it rain: A BYU student hit a halfcourt shot during a timeout, sending the arena into a frenzy with his Lambeau Leap celebration.