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Cougars lose at Santa Clara on last-second shot

By Darnell Dickson - | Jan 27, 2022

The BYU men's basketball team huddles before a game during the 2021-22 season. (BYU Courtesy Photo)

BYU has no one to blame for Thursday’s 77-76 loss to Santa Clara but itself.

The Cougars had the game in hand in the final minute but a terrible in-bounds turnover – Te’Jon Lucas overthrew Gideon George on a full-court pass – and a missed front end of a one-on-one by Spencer Johnson gave the Broncos a chance to win it at the buzzer.

That’s exactly what Jalen Williams did.

Santa Clara’s leading scorer drove the length of the court with 6.5 seconds to play and finessed a layup up over the rim for the game-winner, giving the Broncos a huge win and saddling BYU with an extremely disappointing loss.

“We have to be able to do the fundamental things,” BYU coach Mark Pope said on the BYU Sports Network. “I didn’t have our guys prepared to do any of that tonight. In a season you’ll have some setbacks here and there. We’ll have to regroup and get better. Win or lose, we have to do that. These guys are unbelievable young men and they will do that.”

Williams led all scorers with 26 points on 10 of 18 from the field. Josip Vrankic added 14 points for the Broncos and Parker Braun had a double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Santa Clara moved to 3-2 in West Coast Conference play and 13-7 overall.

Alex Barcello led BYU with 20 points and Lucas finished with 17 on 8 of 12 from the field. George had 13 points (on 3 of 5 from the 3-point line) and Fousseyni Traore posted his third straight double-double with 10 points and a career-best tying 15 rebounds.

“This is pretty hard, losing the game at the end,” George said. “This was a really tough loss tonight. We just have to just put this behind us. We’re going to get better tomorrow and get ready for the next game. We have to get better as a team, individually and collectively and focus on the game on Saturday.”

Thursday’s game in Santa Clara was incredibly close with 22 lead changes and 13 ties. Neither team led by more than four points.

The first half was back and forth with BYU taking a 39-35 lead on a dunk by Atiki Ally Atiki with 16 seconds left. Williams scored on a layup for Santa Clara to close to within two, 39-37, at the break.

The Cougars went on an 8-0 run to turn a four-point deficit into a four-point lead at the 14:30 mark of the second half, but the home team kept pace.

Lucas scored on three consecutive possessions and with 1:12 to play, BYU took a 74-70 lead. There was under a minute to play and the Cougars still led by four when Lucas overthrew George for a critical turnover. The Broncos’ PJ Pipes immediately drained a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to just one at 74-73.

With 19 seconds remaining, Traore rebounded a Barcello miss and scored for a 76-73 Cougar advantage. Moments later, Williams sped down the floor unmolested and scored to cut the BYU lead to 76-75 with 8.8 seconds to play.

The Cougars nearly turned the ball over attempting to bring it in bounds, but after an official video review, a foul was confirmed and Johnson went to the foul line. He not only missed but committed a lane violation, giving Santa Clara the ball out of bounds with 6.5 seconds remaining. That was plenty of time for Williams to drive deep into the key and hit the game-winning basket.

“When you shoot four less shots and seven less free throws, that makes it complicated,” Pope said. “We turned the ball over 18 times on the road and that makes it tough to win. There are some things we have to clear up. There were a lot of holes uncharacteristic of us.”

BYU (5-2, 17-5) remains on the road and will play at Pacific on Saturday.

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