LAS VEGAS – The Gonzaga Bulldogs might need to win the championship game of the West Coast Conference tournament Tuesday night to earn an 18th consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament. If the Bulldogs do advance, they can thank the BYU Cougars for preparing them to battle the best.
Gonzaga and BYU engaged in 40 minutes of marvelously entertaining basketball before the Bulldogs pulled out an 88-84 victory Monday night at The Orleans Arena.
“It was just a great, epic basketball game,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said.
The second-seeded Bulldogs (25-7) play No. 1 seed Saint Mary’s (28-4) for the title and the WCC’s automatic berth in the NCAA tournament. ESPN televises the game at 6 p.m. Saint Mary’s swept two close games with Gonzaga during league play.
Kyle Wiltjer led Gonzaga with 29 points. He sank 10 of 18 shots, including 5 of 7 3-pointers, and grabbed eight rebounds.
“He probably had his best defensive game for us,” Few said.
GU’s Domantas Sabonis sank all of six of his shots and recorded 18 points and 14 rebounds to offset seven turnovers. Josh Perkins contributed 17 points, five assists and two steals. Eric McClellan added 17 points.
Freshman guard Nick Emery led third-seeded BYU (23-10) with 27 points and five 3-pointers on 11 attempts. Kyle Collinsworth produced 16 points, 11 rebounds and six assists. Few said BYU deserves an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament, but the Cougars may be headed for the NIT.