Cougars survive ill-fated attempt at entertaining basketball
Behind a perfect charity stripe performance from WCC scoring king Tyler Haws, the BYU Cougars defeated the Loyola Marymount Lions 73-70. During the second half, Saint Mary's defeated Santa Clara, assuring BYU the #3 seed in the West Coast Conference Tournament no matter the outcome of the Cougars contest. If only the teams knew this we might have been spared the punishment of sitting through the second half.
How best to describe the action from Los Angeles on this fine Saturday evening? Well, BYU had more free throw attempts than field goal tries well into the second half. Bronson Kaufusi airballed a free throw and needed about three more feet to get it to the rim. (please don't hurt me, Bronson) BYU committed 19 turnovers; nine of them by the Cougars starting point guard Matt Carlino.
All this and the game was never really in doubt during the second half.
It was the opposite of an 8-cow-wife basketball game. Is was the type of game every fan must endure so that he or she may know the terrible from the great. (Bring on the WCC Tourney!)
Loyola, who had lost 13 straight WCC games coming in to the contest, shot the ball with accuracy during the opening moments of the first half. The Lions led by as many as six. A quick 6-1 run to close the first half put the Cougars up 34-28 at intermission. BYU shot under 45 percent in the opening frame.
The second half was emblematic of the game as whole as neither team could find much of rhythm. Brandon Davies played just 21 minutes because of foul trouble, the usually efficient Haws was 4-of-12 from the field, and though Dave Rose played all active players tonight, there was a lack of completeness in any lineup he put on the floor. Just one of those nights.
Good thing for BYU that the game mattered little and Loyola is not playing its best basketball. Anthony Ireland scored 24 points but needed 22 shots to do so. The Lions shot just 38 percent from the field and were outrebounded by BYU by 15. Credit the Lions for playing to the final horn with absolutely nothing to gain but pride. I've seen a lot worse from teams in similar situations.
As for the Cougars, Tyler Haws finished with 24 points, a perfect 14-14 at the line. BYU will play the winner of the San Diego/Pepperdine contest on Friday at 8:30 local time in Las Vegas. Despite missing three scholarship players and starting a walk-on, the Cougars secured the 3-seed in the WCC Tournament and are three victories in four days away from dancing in March. With a likely San Diego-Saint Mary's-Gonzaga the likely trek ahead, there can be no question the Cougs are on a path of redemption. It's now or never.