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PROVO — When the BYU men’s basketball team took a look at Gonzaga on film before its West Coast Conference opener Saturday night, the Cougars saw a lot of size and a lot of post players who could hurt them.
BYU's game preparation, then, came down to one thing: shut down the paint and let the Bulldogs’ guards beat them.
In end, Gonzaga did just that.
Kyle Wiltjer scored a game-high 24 points and senior Kevin Pangos poured in 21 points, including five 3-pointers, to go along with seven assists as the No. 10 Bulldogs held off BYU, 87-80, in front of a sold-out crowd at the Marriott Center.
Wiltjer, a Kentucky transfer who is listed as a forward on the roster, took an unconventional route to lighting up the scoreboard, swishing two 3-pointers and nailing 11 of Gonzaga’s 32 shots from the field.
“He’s a great shooter,” BYU’s Kyle Collinsworth said of Wiltjer. “”He got free. He spreads the floor really well and he’s also got some post-up game. It’s really hard to guard. Credit to him and to them for hitting the shots. When it comes down to it, they hit the shots they needed to.”
Collinsworth added an unconventional skill set to the game as well. The junior point guard from Provo High record his second triple-double of the month with 13 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists, including a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to end the first half to tie the score at 43-43.
Collinsworth's triple-double was the fifth in BYU history, and the standout, do-everything point guard is the only play in Cougar basketball history to record multiple triple-doubles in his career.
The buzzer-beater came during a stretch when BYU (10-4, 0-1 WCC) rallied from a 16-point deficit by getting Pangos, Wiltjer and post Przemek Karnowski in foul trouble and taking advantage. BYU co-leading scorer Anson Winder scored eight of his 17 points in the first half as the Cougars tried to pull back from a slow start. Tyler Haws also finished with 17 points to help pace the Cougars.
“There’s a lot of pressure on Kyle,” BYU coach Dave Rose said. “We put a lot of pressure on Kyle when we play that four-guard lineup and move him back to the back line of the zone. He just has to find a way and he usually does it with his quickness and how explosive he is.”
BYU then went ahead in the first few minutes of the second half, taking a 46-43 lead on three free throws by Haws with 19:21 left and held it most of the next seven minutes. In the end, Gonzaga’s balance undid the upstart hosts.
“Their big guys are a load down there, and the guards are great shooters and playmakers,” Winder said of the Zags (12-1, 1-0). “This is definitely one of their better teams. They’re great every year, but this is one of their better teams and we’ll have to be much better next time we play them.”
The veteran Rose, who fell to 3-7 all-time against the Zags, agreed that the 2014-15 version of Gonzaga is one of the most balanced Bulldogs squads he has seen in his time at BYU.
“The balance of this team is really good,” Rose said. “He (Gonzaga coach Mark Few) has got guys in every spot that can make really tough plays at tough times, and Pangos was a guy tonight who hit a couple of 3's and got them going. But everybody fed off him.”
BYU will face a quick turnaround when it hosts Portland Monday at 7 p.m.
“This was a great team, a top-10 team in the country, so you know you have your hands full going into it,” Winder said of Gonzaga. “We’re growing, and this is something we can use to get better.”