March toward the top?
PROVO, Utah — Kelly Olynyk scored 19 points, Gary Bell Jr. hit four 3-pointers, and No. 2 Gonzaga survived a late Brigham Young rally for a 70-65 victory Thursday night and its 10th outright conference title.
The Bulldogs (28-2, 15-0 West Coast Conference) host Portland on Saturday and a win there could mean Gonzaga’s first-ever No. 1 ranking.
Gonzaga led by 11 points with 10:51 left, but BYU fought back. Consecutive 3-pointers by Brock Zylstra, another by Craig Cusick and two free throws by Brandon Davies tied it at 60 with 4:18 remaining.
Olynyk hit a key jumper down the stretch, and Kevin Pangos made two free throws to help seal it.
BYU had one final chance with 6.6 seconds remaining and down three points but Gonzaga fouled Cusick before he could attempt a 3.
Tyler Haws had 19 points for BYU (20-10, 9-6), and Davies added 12 points and 11 rebounds in his final home game.
The Bulldogs won the first meeting in Spokane, Wash., by 20 points.
Olynyk was nearly perfect in the first game, going 9-of-9 from the field and 8-of-8 from the free throw line for 26 points.
This time, he probably felt as if he were in a football game as it was rough-and-tumble from the start, with a former Cougars football player even called for an intentional foul on Olynyk as he drove the lane.
He finished 7-of-10 from the field.
Bell was the lone Gonzaga player to have any success shooting the 3.
Pangos was 1-of-12 from beyond the arc and the Bulldogs 6 of 30 overall from 3-point range.
But Gonzaga held BYU to 36.5 percent shooting and had a marked advantage at the free throw line. The Bulldogs made 20 of 34 attempts, compared to 13 of 22 for BYU.
BYU’s hopes of a seventh straight NCAA appearance may come down to winning the WCC tourney in Las Vegas. The Cougars also could see their streak of six consecutive 25-win seasons end.
At least the Cougars know they pushed Gonzaga to the limit.
After Pangos made two free throws, he fouled Cusick on a 3-point attempt with 7 seconds left.
Cusick made all three, pulling BYU to 67-65. Elias Harris made 3 of 4 free throws down the stretch, while BYU’s shooting went cold
Should Gonzaga ascend to the top spot, the question remains whether the Bulldogs would garner a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament — something they have never achieved.
No. 3 DUKE 68
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. — Joe Harris scored a career-high 36 points, and Virginia celebrated the 11-year anniversary of its last victory over a top five team by doing it again.
Akil Mitchell added 19 points and 12 rebounds for Virginia (20-8, 10-5 Atlantic Coast Conference), which won its 16th consecutive victory at home. It came 11 years to the day since an 87-84 victory, also against No. 3 Duke.
Seth Curry led Duke with 28 points, all but five coming after halftime, and Quinn Cook had 22 for the Blue Devils (24-4, 11-4). Mason Plumlee finished with 10 points, seven rebounds and three turnovers.
In the second half, Harris and Mitchell scored Virginia’s first 16 points as the Cavaliers built a 64-50 lead with 3:23 left.
No. 16 OHIO STATE 63,
EVANSTON, Ill. — Lenzelle Smith scored a season-high 24 points, and Deshaun Thomas added 19 for Ohio State.
The Buckeyes (21-7, 11-5 Big Ten) moved a half-game ahead of Michigan and took sole possession of fourth place in the Big Ten with another difficult win over a team that’s given then fits in recent years.
This time, they led by 11 points early in the second half and regrouped after Northwestern took the lead, sending the Wildcats (13-16, 4-12) to their sixth straight loss and eighth in nine games.
Northwestern led by a point twice in the second half and was up 49-48 with about 4 minutes remaining. But Ohio State outscored the Wildcats 15-4 the rest of the way.
Tre Demps had 14 points, and Dave Sobolewski finished with 13 for the Wildcats, who have lost eight straight and 19 of 20 against Ohio State.
No. 24 OREGON 85,
OREGON STATE 75
EUGENE, Ore. — Carlos Emory scored 21 points, and Oregon completed the season sweep of the Civil War series.
Arsalan Kazemi had 17 points and 12 rebounds, Tony Woods added 16 points, and Johnathan Loyd scored 12 points for the Ducks (23-6, 12-4 Pac-12), who took a half-game lead in the conference over idle UCLA.
Oregon trailed 41-34 at halftime and was down 51-46 near the midpoint of the second half before going on an 18-3 run to take a 64-54 lead with 8:59 to play.
Roberto Nelson scored 31 points for the Beavers (13-16, 3-13), and Devon Collier added 14.
Nelson, the Pac-12’s leading scorer in conference games, scored 22 points on 9-of-13 shooting in the first half.
No. 25 LA. TECH 84,
UTAH STATE 61
RUSTON, La. — Brandon Gibson scored 20 points, and Raheem Appleby added 15 as Louisiana Tech cruised in its first game as a nationally ranked team since 1985.
Louisiana Tech (25-3, 15-0 Western Athletic Conference) won its 17th straight game, a streak that has lasted more than two months.
Jarred Shaw and Ben Clifford both scored 14 points for Utah State. TeNale Roland added 12 points and seven rebounds.
Gibson made 8 of 11 shots from the field, including 4 of 5 from 3-point range, to lead a potent Louisiana Tech bench.