SPOKANE, Wash. (AP)Julian Strawther scored 26 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer with 3:10 remaining, and No. 16 Gonzaga rallied to beat BYU 88-81 on Saturday night.
Drew Timme added 19 points, eight assists and seven rebounds for the Bulldogs (21-5, 10-2 West Coast Conference).
After trailing 71-68 with 4:09 to play, Gonzaga made 3s on three straight possessions to climb past the Cougars. Strawther knocked down back-to-back 3s before finding Nasir Bolton for another one to put Gonzaga ahead 77-73 with 2:21 left.
”These guys just trust me to make big shots. They find me and I’m always gonna shoot those,” Strawther said.
Gonzaga was 3 of 14 behind the arc before the late flurry that gave the Zags their seventh straight win over BYU.
For the second time this season, the Cougars held a late lead over Gonzaga only to see the Bulldogs roar back.
”What a ballgame. It was an intense game from the jump and it always is with BYU. Again, we just found a way to win,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. ”In physical games like this you just have to make plays. It’s not so much what you’re running at that point, you just have to make plays. I think our guys showed a lot of toughness to get through this one.”
It was the final scheduled matchup between the Zags and Cougars, with BYU leaving for the Big 12 next season. Gonzaga is 25-7 against the Cougars in West Coast Conference play, with the chance of another meeting next month at the league tournament in Las Vegas.
”It was a war, man. They’ve got a good team and they always play us well. This is a good little parting gift from the Kennel, I guess,” Timme said.
Spencer Johnson and Fousseyni Traore led the Cougars with 17 points apiece, but BYU (16-12, 6-7) lost for the fifth time in its past seven games.
Gonzaga held a slim lead for nearly the entire first half, but a 3 from Noah Waterman with 25 seconds left gave the Cougars their first lead, 37-34, going into halftime.
BYU led by a basket with 3:40 remaining but couldn’t keep up down the stretch as Gonzaga came from behind to complete the season sweep.
Gonzaga managed to outrebound BYU 19-12 in the second half after losing that battle in the first period, and Cougars coach Mark Pope felt that was the turning point.
”Just so much frustration right now. Thought the guys battled hard, but we’ve got young guys learning huge lessons right now,” Pope said. ”Tonight, the game was on the line, and we had to go grab rebounds – it doesn’t matter what it takes. We had to do that, and we didn’t.”
BYU has dropped two straight and fallen into the middle of the WCC pack.
Gonzaga is a game behind first-place Saint Mary’s in the WCC and will have the opportunity to even the season series Feb. 25 when it hosts the Gaels.
BYU hosts Santa Clara on Thursday.
Gonzaga visits Loyola-Marymount on Thursday.
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