The beating began early in Los Angeles.
The BYU men’s basketball team didn’t waste any time getting into Loyola Marymount, racing to a 22-7 lead and crushing what was one of the hottest teams in the West Coast Conference.
The Lions had won four games in a row but had no chance on Saturday, falling to the Cougars onslaught of efficiency in a 88-71 win for the visitors.
The CBS Sports Network broadcast focused on deep analytics for both teams in a segment called, “Beyond the Boxscore,” but even a basketball novice could see it: BYU played really, really well.
“I thought our guys did an unbelievable job coming in with focus and fight,” BYU coach Mark Pope said in his post-game television interview. “Matt Haarms was off the chart tonight in every facet of the game. His rim protection was the difference in the first half.”
Haarms finished with 21 points on 7 of 8 from the field and helped frustrate LMU star Eli Scott defensively, totaling five blocks. Freshman Caleb Lohner had his second straight terrific performance. Two days after setting a career high with 19 points against Pacific, Lohner had 18 points and seven rebounds. Alex Barcello scored 15 points and Brandon Averette added 14 points and five assists. The Cougars shot 55 percent from the floor and made 9 of 20 from the 3-point line.
It was BYU’s second straight rout on the road after drilling Pacific 80-52 on Thursday.
“How fun is it to watch this team?” Pope said on the BYU Sports Network. “We’ve had six straight games with six different leading scorers. Find me another team that does that. In the locker room, Richard Harward was saying, ‘I don’t know how anybody scouts us.’
“Clearly we have to get way better but right now at this point in the season I am so proud of this group because we have 17 guys contributing. It’s so hard and guys have to work so much extra to make it function that way.”
Scott, who scored 37 points in a Lions win on Tuesday, scored 17 points for LMU (6-4 WCC, 11-7 overall) but was clearly bothered by BYU’s defense, spearheaded by Haarms and his timely double teams. Scott finished 5 of 13 from the field with five turnovers and one assist.
Haarms credited the coaching staff for the game plan against Scott.
“At this point everyone on the team has accepted what they do best,” Haarms said. “They’re not still trying to figure it out and they know what is expected of them from the coaching staff. We really know what we’re good at and the players all know their defined roles, which is really important. Every single night it could be a different player.”
Haarms was active on both ends early, picking up four blocks and throttling LMU’s offensive attack. After Lohner opened the game with a 3-pointer, Barcello found Haarms on the pick and roll for consecutive baskets to force an early Lions time out. The Cougars kept rolling, leading 16-5 after a 3-pointer off the bench by Trevin Knell at the 14:38 mark. Lohner made three free throws and Spencer Johnson dropped in a triple to make it a 22-7 lead with 12:41 to play in the half.
At that point, BYU was 8 of 12 from the field and had forced the Lions into 3 of 12 shooting along with five turnovers.
The large lead in the first half was 26 points (47-21) and the Cougars settled for a 47-25 halftime advantage.
Three players reached double figures in the first half: Haarms (12), Averette (11) and Lohner (10). Scott led his team with eight points but was just 2 of 10 from the field and committed three of the Lions’ ten turnovers.
The damage continued in the second half. A 6-0 run pushed the Cougar advantage to 25 (57-32) and Lohner’s 3-pointer made the lead 32 points (75-43) with eight minutes remaining. LMU — down to six scholarship players due to injury — outscored BYU 18-4 in the final five minutes with its starters still in the game but the this one was never really in doubt after the Cougars early run.
“Looking back at today, with such an early game, everything is just a little disrupted,” Haarms said. “I think the guys did a great job coming in with energy. Everyone was awake and everyone was ready to go.”
BYU (8-3, 17-5) will close the regular season next week at home against San Francisco (Thursday) and Saint Mary’s (Saturday).