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BYU can’t finish in 75-70 loss to Butler in Battle 4 Atlantis

By Staff | Nov 24, 2022

Tim Aylen/Bahamas Visual Services via AP

BYU's Rudi Williams pass the ball as Butler's Connor Turnbull, right, and Pierce Thomas defend during an NCAA college basketball game in the Battle 4 Atlantis at Paradise Island, Bahamas, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022.

The Bahamas are turning out to be nothing like paradise for the BYU men’s basketball team.

The Cougars (3-3) lost their second straight game at the Battle 4 Atlantis, dropping a 75-70 decision to Butler on Wednesday in the consolation round.

BYU wasted a big second-half run and Fousseyni Traore’s best game of the season (21 points, 12 rebounds). The Cougars trailed by seven at halftime, then went on a 12-0 run to open the second to take a five-point lead, but couldn’t get it done in a close finish.

“Congratulations to Butler,” BYU coach Mark Pope said. “They made some really big plays down the stretch and it was a great win for them. I was proud of our guys. I thought we won in a lot of the areas that we wanted but just couldn’t win the game. I thought the guys made significant improvements from yesterday in some of the ways we approach the game. We still came up empty tonight and so that’s really, really discouraging, but we’ll continue to get better. That’s the motto of the team and these games gives us an opportunity to do it.”

BYU was miserable from the 3-point line (3 of 20) and missed two huge triples down the stretch after closing to within one point (66-65) with 2:35 to play. Rudi Williams lost his man but missed a wide-open step-back 3-pointer that would have given the Cougars a two-point lead with one minute to play. Butler converted on the other end to move ahead 71-68 with 36 seconds left. Gideon George’s open triple would have tied the game but was short with 16 second remaining. The Bulldogs converted four straight free throws to close out the win.

Tim Aylen/Bahamas Visual Services via AP

Butler's Manny Bates, left, passes the ball as BYU's Richie Saunders reaches for it during an NCAA college basketball game in the Battle 4 Atlantis at Paradise Island, Bahamas, Thursday, Nov. 24, 2022.

Traore was 8 of 14 from the field for his 21-point game. George finished with 14 points and Williams had 12. BYU outrebounded Butler 39-27 but despite 17 offensive rebounds, shot just 42% (28 of 67) from the field. After the early turnovers, the Cougars had just four in the second half.

Jayden Taylor paced Butler with 20 points and Eric Hunter Jr. had 19, including 3 of 3 from the 3-point in the second half with all three shots at critical times. The Bulldogs made 53% from the field and scored 21 points off of 13 BYU turnovers.

The Cougars trailed by as many as nine points in the first half as Butler got plenty of easy looks at the rim against a leaky defense. The Bulldogs led 14-5 just 4:30 into the game, taking advantage of the early BYU turnovers. Butler led 22-13 when Noah Waterman gave BYU a boost with a drive for a score and a 3-pointer that trimmed the deficit to 24-18. The Cougars trailed 37-30 at the break.

Williams scored five straight points, including a 3-pointer, to get BYU off to a hot start in the second half. Jaxson Robinson nailed a triple, George scored inside and Traore also found his way to a basket, capping a 12-0 run to push the Cougars into a 42-37 lead at the 17:22 mark.

A Manny Bates jump hook gave Butler a 47-46 lead with 13:18 to play and the Bulldogs never gave up their advantage. The Cougars stayed close but missed its final ten 3-pointers, going 2-12 from the arc in the second half.

Butler coach Thad Matta, who was down to just eight active players by game’s end due to injury, praised his team’s effort and complimented the Cougars as well.

“We didn’t play perfect and you have to give BYU a lot of credit for that,” Matta said. “I told my players I forgot to tell them that BYU does not go away.”

The Cougars will play in the seventh-place game against Dayton, which lost to North Carolina State 76-64 in a consolation contest. The game will be Friday at 1:30 p.m. MT and can be seen ESPNU.

In the semifinals, No. 3 Kansas got a last-second put-back to beat Wisconsin 69-68 in overtime and No. 22 Tennessee also needed an extra session to get past USC 73-66. The Jayhawks and Volunteers will meet in the Battle 4 Atlantis championship game on Friday at 5:30 p.m. MT on ESPN.

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