No. 1 Gonzaga rallies to beat BYU 88-78 in WCC title game

Gonzaga
BYU center Richard Harward (42) defends against Gonzaga forward Drew Timme during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game for the West Coast Conference men's tournament championship Tuesday, March 9, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/David Becker)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Gonzaga was out of sorts for one of the few times this season, falling into its biggest halftime deficit in three years. Corey Kispert got the Bulldogs back in it. Jalen Suggs finished it off. The undefeated season is intact. The NCAA Tournament is next.

Suggs hit two late 3-pointers and scored 23 points, helping top-ranked Gonzaga survive its biggest test of an undefeated season to beat Brigham Young 88-78 in the West Coast Conference Tournament title game on Tuesday night.

“We needed a game like that,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “We had some adversity and got punched in the face. We got together at halftime and the guys just stuck with the plan.”

The Bulldogs (26-0) had been unstoppable all season, winning all but one of their games by double digits as they advanced to the WCC title game for the 24th straight year.

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The Cougars (20-6) made the lopsided losses list twice, but exposed Gonzaga’s lone weakness in the first half at Orleans Arena: its defense.

BYU shot confidently, using an early 11-0 run to build a 12-point halftime lead.

The Zags responded by locking down defensively and getting back to their efficient ways on offense.

Kispert hit three early 3-pointers and scored 14 of his 17 points in the second half. Suggs took charge down the stretch, hitting consecutive 3-pointers to put Gonzaga up by nine with 1:28 left.

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“I’ve been dreaming of playing college basketball all my life,” Suggs said. “I was practicing on my Little Tikes hoop for these exact moments and for it to play out like this is crazy.”

Gonzaga has won a school-record 30 straight games over two seasons and will be the first team since Kentucky in 2015, and 16th overall, to enter the NCAA Tournament undefeated. The Zags won their eighth WCC title in nine years and 17th under Few.

Trevin Knell led BYU with 20 points.

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