SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) — Brigham Young could have folded after a first half in which it shot just 25 percent and trailed No. 10 Gonzaga by 19 points.
However, the Cougars recovered their composure, and their shooting touch, to play even in the second half of the 83-63 loss on Thursday night
"We were struggling and they were kind of dominating us," BYU coach Dave Rose said. "The fact that they stayed in there, hung in there, they fought and we played the second half a lot better than the first half.
"Hopefully we can build on that and move forward," Rose said.
Kelly Olynyk was nearly perfect for Gonzaga, scoring 26 points on 9-for-9 shooting from the field and 8-for-8 on free throws. He also had nine rebounds and five assists to help the Bulldogs (18-2, 5-0) win the showdown for first place in the West Coast Conference.
"If I can get the ball in the center of the zone, it's hard for a defense," Olynyk said. "The guards were feeding me and we made great plays."
But there was another player Olynyk wanted to talk about: guard Gary Bell Jr., who held BYU guard Tyler Haws — the WCC scoring leader at 21 points per game coming in — to just one point. Haws had 42 points against Virginia Tech, the most by a Division I player this season. His previous low this season was nine points against Iowa State, and he had scored at least 20 in seven consecutive games coming in.
"Gary Bell Jr. guarded Haws to a 'T,'" Olynyk said.
Haws was 0 for 9 from the field, and BYU shot just 35 percent (21 for 59).
"I was ecstatic with how we flew around," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "We did a great job on Haws. We did a great job on (Brandon) Davies. We did a great job on the glass."
Elias Harris added 25 points and 10 rebounds for Gonzaga, which was coming off a last-second loss at No. 9 Butler last weekend.
Josh Sharp and Davies led BYU (15-6, 5-2) with 14 points each.
Gonzaga outrebounded BYU 37-29, and outscored the Cougars 42-28 in the paint. The Zags shot 56.9 percent.
"Between Harris and Olynyk, they just had a fantastic game," Rose said. "Offensively we struggled with their size and how physical the game was."
This one was basically over in the first half.
BYU made only three of its first 16 shots to fall behind 15-8 midway through the first half. Three baskets and a free throw by Harris pushed Gonzaga's lead to 24-12.
The BYU drought continued, and Gonzaga scored 12 straight points for a 36-14 lead.
The Zags led 40-21 at halftime, as Harris and Olynyk had 14 points each in the half.
The 21 points were BYU's lowest in the first half this season. Haws did not score in the first half, missing all six of his shots.
"They sped (Haws) up and were really physical with him," Rose said. "It was tough to get the ball in spots where he was comfortable. Every catch he made, it seemed to be in a spot where it was a little out of the rhythm that he likes to be in."
The Cougars were shooting just 25 percent (8 for 31) at the break, including just 1 for 10 on 3-pointers. The Zags dominated inside, outscoring BYU 24-8 in the paint in the first half and grabbing eight more rebounds.
The Cougars came out sharper in the second half and their shooting improved, but they couldn't make up much ground.
Davies scored 10 points as BYU cut Gonzaga's lead to 59-46 with 9 minutes left. But every time the Cougars scored, it seemed that Olynyk or Harris would reply for the Zags.
"We knew the game wasn't won at halftime," Olynyk said. "You have to play 40 minutes."
Gonzaga, which has won three straight against BYU, improved to 114-8 in the McCarthey Athletic Center since it opened in 2004.
Follow Nicholas K. Geranios on Twitter @nickgeranios