BYU Basketball: Caleb Lohner didn’t let Zag fans get the best of themselves

SPOKANE, Wash — From the time he sauntered onto the floor during warm-up practice Thursday night, about an hour before the tip, the Gonzaga student section known as “Kraziness in The Kennel” taunted and taunted BYU forward Caleb wagers relentlessly.

This treatment continued throughout the game.

Zags fans singled out Lohner for a comment he made Tuesday during media interviews in Provo, which made its way to Spokane. Lohner spoke of wanting to be more assertive on the pitch, then talked about the challenge of taking on the country’s No. 2.

And he added: “Everybody hates Gonzaga; so it’s fun to play them.” Of course, that was the only part of the quote that went viral and directly targeted Lohner.

“There was a media quote that was posted on Twitter,” Lohner said after the Cougars’ 110-84 loss to Gonzaga. “I think word got around. They took what they could and ran with it.”

But the 6-foot-8 Dallas runner-up seemed inspired to play due to all the attention.

“In order to win such a big game, you need 100 percent commitment from everyone,” said Lohner. “I gave 100% effort.”

In the first minute of play, Lohner drilled a 3-pointer after entering the night after making just 2 of 24 3-point attempts this season.

In the end, Lohner finished with 17 points — two just short of his season high — and five rebounds in 22 minutes. He made 7 of 10 shots from the floor, including 2 of 3 from 3-point range.

“I think I did it (feeding on the crowd),” Lohner said. “As strange as it sounds, I think I liked it when everyone was screaming. There was a lot of attention, whether negative or positive. I enjoyed it. We just have to get better. We can’t let one team score that many points and expect to beat a high quality team like Gonzaga.”

Earlier this season at Huntsman Center, Lohner — who signed with Utah before deciding to sign up with BYU — was targeted by Ute fans. He ended up recording a double-double with 10 points and 12 rebounds in a 75-64 win over Utah.

Lohner expected the story to incur the wrath of the Utes at the Huntsman Center.

But did he expect that kind of treatment on Thursday?

“No. Not very much. But I enjoyed it,” said Lohner. “There’s a recurring theme – I’m kind of the hated person at every away game we go to. That’s fine, I’ll take it. But I respect every team we play when they come here.”

Grid view

  • BYU forward Caleb Lohner, left, shoots while under pressure from Gonzaga center Chet Holmgren in the second half of an NCAA collegiate basketball game Thursday, January 13, 2022, in Spokane, Wash. Gonzaga won 110-84.

    Young Kwak, AP

  • Gonzaga guard Andrew Nembhard shoots during the first half of an NCAA collegiate basketball game against BYU Thursday, January 13, 2022, in Spokane, Washington.

    Young Kwak, AP

  • BYU guard Alex Barcello shoots during the first half of an NCAA collegiate basketball game against Gonzaga Thursday, January 13, 2022, in Spokane, Wash.

    Young Kwak, AP

  • Gonzaga guard Julian Strawther (left) drives to the basket and is fouled by BYU forward Atiki Ally Atiki during the first half of an NCAA collegiate basketball game Thursday, January 13, 2022, in Spokane, Washington.

    Young Kwak, AP

  • BYU forward Caleb Lohner shoots in the first half of an NCAA collegiate basketball game against Gonzaga Thursday, January 13, 2022, in Spokane, Wash.

    Young Kwak, AP

  • Gonzaga center Chet Holmgren secures a rebound in the first half of an NCAA collegiate basketball game against BYU Thursday, January 13, 2022 in Spokane, Wash.

    Young Kwak, AP

  • Gonzaga forward Drew Timme, left, shoots in front of BYU forward Caleb Lohner during the first half of an NCAA collegiate basketball game, Thursday, January 13, 2022, in Spokane, Wash.

    Young Kwak, AP

  • BYU guard Alex Barcello (13) drives the ball while guard Te’Jon Lucas (3) takes a screen against Gonzaga guard Rasir Bolton (45 ) sets up Spokane, Washington.

    Young Kwak, AP

  • BYU head coach Mark Pope reacts during the first half of an NCAA collegiate basketball game against Gonzaga Thursday, January 13, 2022, in Spokane, Washington.

    Young Kwak, AP

  • Gonzaga head coach Mark Few directs his team in the first half of an NCAA collegiate basketball game against BYU on Thursday, January 13, 2022, in Spokane, Washington.

    Young Kwak, AP

  • Gonzaga forward Drew Timme (left) shoots in front of teammate Chet Holmgren (center) and BYU forward Caleb Lohner during the second half of an NCAA collegiate basketball game Thursday, January 13, 2022, in Spokane, Washington. Gonzaga won 110-84.

    Young Kwak, AP

  • Gonzaga forward Anton Watson dives in during the second half of an NCAA collegiate basketball game against BYU on Thursday, January 13, 2022, in Spokane, Wash. Gonzaga won 110-84.

    Young Kwak, AP

  • BYU forward Caleb Lohner (33) scores a rebound next to Gonzaga guard Hunter Sallis (10) in the second half of an NCAA collegiate basketball game Thursday, January 13, 2022 in Spokane, Wash. Gonzaga won 110-84.

    Young Kwak, AP

  • Gonzaga guard Andrew Nembhard (3) dives in front of BYU guard Alex Barcello (13) during the second half of an NCAA collegiate basketball game Thursday, January 13, 2022, in Spokane, Wash. Gonzaga won 110-84.

    Young Kwak, AP

This is the full context of Lohner’s comment on Tuesday: “I don’t think I’m playing the way I wanted to play. There have been moments this season where I’ve been pretty good and there have been moments where I haven’t asserted myself the way I wanted to.

“This is a big game just to gain everyone’s trust and play against a strong No. 2 team in the country and give everything you have and measure yourself for where you are. It will be fun for us as a team, as a program and as a university. Everyone hates Gonzaga; so it’s fun to play.”

Not only have Zags fans booed Lohner every time he touched the ball, but as he sat on the bench, they sarcastically chanted, “We want Caleb!” or roared derogatory chants about his skill level.

After the game, Lohner spent quite a while in the arena talking to his family, who made the trip to Spokane.

Coach Mark Pope liked how Lohner played on Thursday.

“He worked really hard. He’s a really talented player,” he said. “I was happy for him tonight.”

For BYU’s two freshmen, Fousseyni Traore, who scored eight points and grabbed seven rebounds, and Atiki Ally Atiki, who had four points and two boards, Thursday was a learning experience.

This was a game where the Cougars really needed Gavin Baxter and Richard Harward, who are out for the season.

Traore and Ally Atiki played Gonzaga’s elite postal player Drew Timme, who made 13 shots of 14 and scored 30 points, and 7-1 Chet Holmgren, who hit 5 shots of 7 and had 12 points.

“We’re really happy to be able to play these games because it lets us know how far we have to go,” Pope said. “We don’t have much time for that. We have to get a lot better.

“That’s what these games teach you – they show you where you are and what you need to do. They force us to explore how we can become better and how we can individually complete tasks better and increase our level of play. That’s why these games are important.”

The Cougars (14-4, 2-1) visit San Francisco on Saturday night.

Pope praised Gonzaga and he hopes his players can put this defeat behind them.

“You are really good. You are really good here. We couldn’t find a defensive answer tonight. Our boys fought and fought and fought. We just couldn’t find an answer,” he said. “Probably the toughest game in the country right now comes here and plays here. We were clearly not up to the task tonight. It’s an incredible gift because it will help us diagnose a lot of ways that we need to get better.”

Going forward, BYU would like to see more performances and productions from Lohner — as happened against Gonzaga on Thursday.

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