BYU just lost one of “those” games.
The Cougars always seem to have an inexplicable loss in West Coast Conference play — i.e., a loss to a team not named Gonzaga or Saint Mary’s — and that’s what happened on Saturday at War Memorial Stadium. Leading by 14 points early in the second half, BYU came completely unraveled and didn’t recover until it was too late, falling to San Francisco, 83-82.
Trailing 72-59 with six minutes to play, the Cougars mounted a furious comeback and nearly caught the Dons. BYU pulled to within 79-77 and had the ball with 17.6 seconds to play. USF opted to foul Yoeli Childs — a 59% free throw shooter — intentionally and send him to the line. Childs missed the one-and-one opportunity and San Francisco made four straight free throws for an 83-79 lead, making Jake Toolson’s 3-pointer at the buzzer just one point short.
“This one is really painful, no doubt about it,” Cougar coach Mark Pope told the BYU Sports Network. “These guys deserve a better coach then they had tonight. They just got us a little scattered and we didn’t respond well. I did an awful job of managing our energy.
“Certainly the game didn’t come down to that (Childs’ missed free throw). It was all the things I didn’t do right in the second half. Our guys did show great heart and fight to claw their way back. We just couldn’t close the deal.”
BYU is going to have nightmares about USF’s dynamic guard line of Khalil Shabazz and Jeremee Bouyee, who put the Cougar defenders on skates the entire game. Shabbaz scored a career-high 32 points on 10-of-10 from the field (6-of-6 from the 3-point line) and Bouyea added 23 — also a career best — on 10-of-15 from the floor. The pair combined for about 22 points per game this season. On Saturday, they scored 55.
“How dumb am I?” Pope said. “I let a kid go 10-for-10, 6-for-6 and 6-for-7. That’s beyond inexcusable. I need to be way better and figure some things out. I let them keep us in isolation the last 16 minutes of the half. We’ll go get better. I’ll get better and we’ll come back and ring the bell next week.”
T.J. Haws led BYU (4-3 WCC, 15-7 overall) with 20 points, Childs added 19, Toolson scored 17 and Alex Barcello contributed 14. The Cougars shot 52% from the field and made 15-of-27 (57%) from the 3-point line. Childs also contributed seven rebounds and a career-high eight assists.
But allowing career nights for both Shabazz and Bouyea was simply too much to overcome.
BYU was sharp offensively in the first half, finishing at 57% (17-of-30) from the field. The Cougars were especially effective from the 3-point line, making 9 of 15 with Haws, Childs and Barcello all making two each.
BYU led by as many as 11 points in the first half, 35-24, after a Zac Seljaas triple at the 6:39 mark. The Dons rallied to within two, but BYU scored the last five points of the half, featuring a long-distance 3-point bomb from Toolson, for a 45-38 halftime lead.
Toolson got off to a hot start in the second half, scoring seven straight points to push the BYU lead to 14, 54-40, at the 15:50 mark.
And that’s when everything fell apart.
The Cougars went nearly seven minutes without a point and surrendering a 21-0 San Francisco run. Shabazz had 10 points and Bouyea seven as the Dons seized all the momentum.
During the run, BYU was 0-for-7 from the field, had four turnovers and Haws earned a foolish technical foul when he made contact with an official after he lost the ball.
BYU managed to cut the lead to two, 61-59, on a Haws pull-up jumper but the Dons (4-3, 15-7) made three straight 3-pointers — one each from Shabazz, Bouyea and Jordan Ratinho — and led 72-59 with six minutes to play.
Haws set the all-time BYU record for consecutive starts with 123.
The Cougars return to the Marriott Center for the first time since Jan. 16 with Pepperdine on Thursday and Saint Mary’s on Saturday.