SPOKANE, Wash. — The Gonzaga men’s basketball team has a choice to make as it returns to the court this weekend in the West Coast Conference tournament.
Should it focus on the nation’s-best 29 wins it has earned this season, or the one it did not?
This week the Bulldogs might lean toward the latter, as their most recent game left them with their first loss of the season, a 79-71 setback to BYU.
“We need to address it because it needs to be a learning scenario,” assistant coach Brian Michaelson said. “We can't just act like it never happened.
“By no means will it be browbeaten that we lost or anything that like that, but we have to address it in order to use it as a time for improvement.”
BYU had 20 points off turnovers compared with Gonzaga’s 13, and the Cougars had 15 second-chance points compared with Gonzaga’s eight. The Bulldogs also tied a season-low for assists with eight. And after BYU took its first lead with 8:38 to play, Gonzaga was 3-for-9 from the field with four turnovers, including three in the game’s final 47 seconds.
But the Bulldogs don’t need to reference a box score or roll film to remember what went wrong Feb. 25.
Freshman forward Zach Collins said they let the offense stagnate, and they didn’t help their output by missing nearly half of their free throws. Junior guard Nigel Williams-Goss, named this week as the West Coast Conference Player of the Year and a finalist for the Naismith Award, pointed to the turnovers and the extra chances they allowed the Cougars.
“The good thing is those are all in our control,” Williams-Goss said. “I think when you lose those are things that you can hold onto knowing that if you fix it, you can do better next time.”
Gonzaga suffered similar late regular-season losses the past two seasons and responded to win the WCC tournament both years and reach the NCAA tournament Elite Eight in 2015 and the Sweet 16 in 2016. And the loss to BYU didn’t affect any of the team’s goals for this season, the two remaining ones being another WCC tournament title and a chance to compete for the national championship in Glendale, Ariz.
The Bulldogs had their best start and longest win streak in program history this season, and they are in the midst of the 20th consecutive 20-win season and 10th consecutive 25-win season.
Going undefeated was never on the team’s goal list, Michaelson and Williams-Goss said. But to reach the goals that are, they do have go to undefeated starting Saturday.
“There's a process that we follow, and the process leads to winning when we do it,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. “We've got 29 examples of doing it right and doing it well. And we have an example where we didn't do it and it came back and bit us. Gotta stick to the process.”