Just one-tenth of a second in college basketball can make all the difference in the world.
BYU found that out once again Saturday night in Stockton, Calif., as the Cougars battled Pacific right down to the wire.
Thanks to a pair of missed free throws by Tiger junior forward Jack Williams, BYU got the ball back down by a single point with 14 seconds left.
Cougar junior guard Jahshire Hardnett tried to get the ball to sophomore guard Elijah Bryant, who had poured in 29 points for BYU, but the Tigers did a good job of denying the pass.
Hardnett then drove hard to the basket and got to the rim, but his layup was too strong. The ball got knocked to the corner, where Pacific tossed it back into play — but right to Cougar sophomore Zac Seljaas with under a second to go.
Seljaas did just enough to get a hold of it and toss it desperately at the basket — where it dropped through for what could have been the dramatic game-winning score.
But, as replays confirmed, the one-handed effort came just a tenth of a second too late.
The Tigers had to wait for the official confirmation before celebrating their 67-66 upset victory.
“I think when you lose these close games, you tend to look at just the last two or three possessions,” BYU head coach Dave Rose said on KSL Radio after the game. “That’s not the formula in this situation. We were really stale in the first half and that surprises me. I haven’t seen that from this group except for one other time. The second half we found it, but we had already turned these guys on and tonight they really made plays. It’s just really disappointing.”
The Cougars came out of the game strong, making six of their first seven shots on their way to a 14-7 lead.
But Pacific used its quickness and hot shooting to put together a 16-4 run to take the lead, which eventually got to 34-26 late in the first half.
BYU roared back to start the second period as the Cougars scored 13 of the first 17 points to regain the advantage.
From that point on, the two teams battled back and forth with neither going up by more than four points.
Tiger sophomore forward Jahlil Tripp, who had been saddled with four fouls and spent much of the second half on the bench, made a pair of tough shots and then hit 3-of-4 foul shots to put Pacific up 65-63 in the final minute.
BYU sophomore forward Yoeli Childs had a chance to tie the game from the line but missed the front end of a one-and-one.
When Tiger junior Miles Reynolds drained both free throws with under 25 seconds to go, things looked grim for the Cougars.
But Bryant drilled a 3-pointer to cut the Pacific lead to one with 15 seconds to play, then the Cougars fouled Williams on the ensuing in-bounds pass. Williams’ misses set up the heart-stopping final seconds of action.
BYU also got 13 points from Childs and nine points from junior Luke Worthington, but the Cougars only got two points from their reserves compared to 16 points from the Tiger bench.
Tripp scored 22 points to lead Pacific, while Reynolds added 16.
The defeat is the second tough loss for BYU in three games as the Cougars lost to St. Mary’s, 74-64 in overtime, at home on Dec. 30 in a game where Seljaas had another shot at the buzzer to win in regulation, but couldn’t get the shot to fall.
BYU will now try to bounce back when it hosts Pepperdine on Thursday at the Marriott Center at 7 p.m.