SPOKANE, Wash. — Another grinding defensive battle for No. 14 Gonzaga, just as the Bulldogs expected.
Rui Hachimura scored 15 points, Josh Perkins added 14 and Gonzaga edged BYU 68-60 on Saturday night for its fifth win in a row.
On Thursday, the high-scoring Zags escaped with a 69-59 win over San Diego.
“We knew it was going to be like that,” Gonzaga coach Mark Few said of the BYU game. “It’s tough to generate baskets off that defense.”
“Nobody plays harder” than BYU, Few said.
The Bulldogs won despite shooting only 37.5 percent in the second half, when BYU came back from a halftime deficit to tie the game.
“We can have some lulls,” Few said, after his team finished nearly 20 points below its season average.
“Guys were firing shots from all over the place,” Few said. “We just didn’t make them.”
BYU got within 62-60 in the final minutes. But the Zags forced two turnovers and scored the final six points to seal the win.
“Any time you can beat them you beat a real good team,” Few said.
Johnathan Williams had 13 points and 10 rebounds for Gonzaga (21-4, 11-1 West Coast), which had lost to BYU at home each of the previous three seasons. Perkins added seven assists.
TJ Haws had 22 points for BYU (18-7, 7-5), which was coming off a head-scratching road loss at Loyola Marymount. Luke Worthington added 16 points and Yoeli Childs had 14.
“We played hard and if we keep playing like that, I have no doubt we will have a great February and be a very successful team in March,” Worthington said.
BYU coach Dave Rose said his players were frustrated by the loss.
“I thought we played well,” Rose said. “If we hit a couple more 3s, it may have been a different story.” The Cougars were only 3 of 20 from 3-point range.
“We’re a skilled group, but we got into situations where their physicality overwhelmed us,” Rose said.
Although Gonzaga has lost only 15 times in the McCarthey Athletic Center since it opened in 2004, three of those were to BYU in the past three years. Last year’s loss in the final game of the regular season was top-ranked Gonzaga’s first defeat.
Few said he wasn’t troubled by past results.
“I just wanted to win,” he said.
Haws’ 3-pointer brought BYU within 57-55, and his next basket tied the score at 59 with 2:39 left.
Zach Norvell Jr. sank a 3-pointer and Williams hit a layup for a 64-60 Gonzaga lead with 1:36 left.
BYU turned the ball over on its next two possessions and the Zags extended their lead at the free throw line.
Gonzaga used an 8-0 run midway through the first half to build a 24-17 lead. Gonzaga extended the lead to 36-26 at halftime, after limiting BYU to 41 percent shooting.
The Bulldogs went cold in the second half, and Haws hit a 3-pointer to bring the Cougars within 39-35.
Two free throws by Elijah Bryant tied the score at 43 with 13 minutes left.
BYU leading scorer Elijah Bryant was held to four points and shot just 1 of 11 from the floor. “They always seem to have one or two guys that can take away your best scorers,” Rose said.
The Zags have a chance to move up in the polls as three teams ranked above them lost on Saturday.
BYU: Childs has scored in double figures in all but one game this season. The Cougars had lost two of their previous three games. They are seeking a 13th straight season with at least 20 wins.
Gonzaga: The Bulldogs have won at least 20 games for the 21st consecutive season. They have six players averaging in double figures and their 87.4 points per game are fifth in the nation.
BYU hosts Santa Clara next Thursday.
Gonzaga plays at Pacific next Thursday and has a rematch against No. 13 Saint Mary’s next Saturday.