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Olynyk perfect for Gonzaga in blowout of BYU

The SportsXchange

SPOKANE, Wash. -- Gonzaga's basketball coaches thought it would be wise to redshirt Kelly Olynyk last season, after the 7-foot forward often struggled during his first two seasons.

Midway through the year, Olynyk's coaches were beginning to think they were too smart for their own good.

"We said (last) January he was our best player," Gonzaga assistant coach Ray Giacoletti said Thursday night after Olynyk dominated BYU in an 83-63 triumph in a key West Coast Conference game.

Olynyk scored a game-high 26 points by sinking every shot he took -- nine from the field and eight at the free-throw line. He also had nine rebounds, five assists, one blocked shot and one steal in 31 minutes for the 10th-ranked Bulldogs.

"He used the redshirt year to the utmost," Giacoletti said. "He changed his body in the weight room. He was working out twice a day on his basketball skills. He was eating right.

"He made the absolute most out of it. He was hungry. So many times, guys redshirt and just kind of get through the year."

The Bulldogs (18-2, 5-0 WCC) dominated the smaller Cougars in the paint with Olynyk and Elias Harris. The latter racked up 25 points, 10 rebounds, two blocked shots, one assist and one steal, and he played effective defense against BYU star Brandon Davies.

"Elias has taken his game to a different level," Giacoletti said. "He's really focused and dialed in."

Olynyk said, "We had a great game plan. Guys individually gave great efforts."

Olynyk and Harris each scored 14 points in the first half, when Gonzaga raced to a 40-21 lead.

"Offensively, we just couldn't get going in the first half," said BYU sophomore guard Josh Sharp, who tied Davies for team scoring honors with 14 points. "They were very physical, and you have to learn to work through that. We got some shots that normally fall down; they just didn't."

Olynyk, a point guard until he went through a sudden growth spurt after his sophomore year of high school, made some impressive passes and handled the ball with surprising ability for a big man.

"He's a great player," Sharp understated.

Giacoletti said, "He's got as good a feel for a 7-footer -- an uncanny feel. He can really pass the basketball. He plays with great poise. When he catches it, he plays slow. So many guys panic when they catch the basketball, especially in traffic."

BYU guard Tyler Haws, who came into the night leading the WCC with 21.6 points per game, went 0 for 9 from the field and scored one point, on a second-half free throw. Gary Bell Jr., a noted defensive stopper, hounded Haws unmercifully.

"Gary Bell Jr. guarded Haws to a tee," Olynyk said.

Giacoletti said, "The biggest thing we talked about was you've got to be able to guard him without fouling him, because half his points usually come from the free-throw line."

The Bulldogs shot a sizzling 56.9 percent from the field, compared to 35.6 percent for the Cougars (15-6, 5-2). Despite the lopsided loss, the Cougars forced Gonzaga into a season-high 19 turnovers.

"They did so many that you don't usually see (with BYU's zone defenses)," Giacoletti said. "They've played that 1-3-1 maybe six or seven possessions all year."

Point guard Kevin Pangos complemented Gonzaga's dominant inside scoring by draining 4 of 8 3-pointers for all of his 12 points. He also had three steals. BYU guard Matt Carlino totaled 11 points and four steals.

NOTES: Haws started the day ranked seventh in the nation in scoring. ... Gonzaga was second in the nation in field-goal shooting percentage at 51.2, trailing only Creighton (51.5). ... Gonzaga was eighth in scoring (79.4) and BYU was 16th (78.3). ... ESPN.com ranks Olynyk 62nd among prospects for the 2013 NBA draft. ... Thursday was National Gonzaga Day. The school is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year. ... The standard sellout crowd of 6,000 turned out at Gonzaga's McCarthey Athletic Center. The crowd included dozens of GU students who took turns camping out in tents in freezing or near-freezing weather the past few days so they could get prime seats.

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