Las Vegas • Much like all those wannabes pretending to be Elvis on the Las Vegas Strip Saturday night, a group of impersonators who somehow won 25 games this season also invaded nearby Orleans Arena.
Looking nothing like an NCAA Tournament candidate, the BYU Cougars were blown out 77-58 by Gonzaga in front of a sellout crowd of 7,828 and an ESPN television audience in a West Coast Conference men's basketball semifinal.
Gonzaga (25-5) will meet Saint Mary's in the WCC final on Monday at 7 p.m. MST, while the Cougars (25-8) will spend the week on the proverbial tournament bubble, waiting and wondering whether they did enough to earn an at-large bid.
If the selection committee members stayed up late enough to watch Saturday's debacle, the answer might just be no.
"We had some early shots that could have gone in, but it just didn't go our way and we just dug ourselves a hole," BYU senior Noah Hartsock said. "It is hard to come back against a team that is shooting that well."
About the only decent moments for the Cougars came early in the second half, when Brandon Davies scored six straight points to seemingly carve into Gonzaga's momentum. But GU's Kevin Pangos scored 13 points in the first seven minutes of the half drilling three huge 3-pointers, and that was that.
The freshman finished with 30 points and continually kept the Cougars at bay in the second half with clutch shots and passes.
"He has such a quick release, and when he gets going, he's going," Hartsock said.
The Cougars defeated the Zags 83-73 in Provo, while Gonzaga won the rematch in Spokane, 74-63. Saturday's rubber game was much like the latter, as the Bulldogs controlled the contest from the opening tip against a group of Cougars who came out rattled and lacking in poise.
Even coach Dave Rose lost his cool, picking up a rare technical foul in the first half when everything that could go wrong did go wrong for BYU.
The Cougars got off to a horrible start and were barely competitive in the first half, falling behind 38-26 at the break, but only after rallying in the last six minutes.
"They played great," Hartsock said. "They came out really focused and shot the ball extremely well, and ran their stuff well. They just played a great basketball game. It is hard to stop a team that is playing that well.
The Cougars missed six straight shots after Brock Zylstra opened the game with a field goal, and fell in a 12-4 hole early. It got worse, as Matt Carlino made a bad pass moments later and the Zags ran out to a fastbreak dunk and a 19-5 lead, forcing Rose into taking a timeout.
Rose got the technical foul later in the half, his second of the season and third of his career, for protesting a non-call too vehemently when it appeared that GU's Robert Sacre belted Davies in the head.
Hartsock said the Cougars believe they've done enough to earn at at-large bid, despite Saturday's beatdown.
"We have a good enough record that we know we are going to play some more basketball," he said.
R In Short • Gonzaga takes control from the opening tip and blows out BYU in a West Coast Conference semifinal.
Key Moment • The Cougars missed six of their first seven shots and never hold the lead.
Key Stat • The Cougars are 1-for-10 from 3-point range in the first half.