Eric Mika scored a career high 29 points to go with 10 rebounds to single-handedly keep BYU in the contest, but the continued trend of poor three point shooting, porous defense, and turnover problems allowed USC to earn a 91-84 victory over the Cougars at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA. Nick Emery and T.J. Haws had matching 0/6 shooting performances in the first half, but their 15 and 16 point second halves, respectively, came too late. BYU failed to get over the hump after USC took a 55-39 lead when Erik Mika picked up his third foul 51 seconds into the half.
Mika dominated the first four minutes of the game to propel BYU to a 10-2 lead, scoring four baskets on two running hook shots, a fadeaway jumper, and an alley-oop dunk. However, USC started the game just as poorly, making only one of their first 17 shots. Kyle Davis contributed immediately in his return from injury, coming off the bench with a couple baskets and a blocked shot, but USC’s Shaqquan Aaron hit back-to-back-to-back three pointers to even the contest 19. Aaron then added a 4th three pointer and dished out an assist to give the Trojans a 28-27 lead late in the first half. BYU was plagued by 11 first half turnovers (including an extremely uncharacteristic 4 from L.J. Rose) that led to 13 Trojan points. USC Coach Andy Enfield’s decision to switch to a 2-3 zone defense limited BYU’s opportunities in the paint, and the Trojans had a run of 14 of 22 made shots en route to a 39-32 halftime lead.
Mika really hurt BYU’s chances in this game by picking up his third foul less than a minute into the second half. After the Trojans went on a run with some transition baskets and hot outside shooting, the Cougars cut the USC deficit to 8 points on multiple occasions after Mika re-entered the game. Nick Emery came alive, but BYU committed far too many turnovers that led to Trojan fast break opportunities to keep within striking distance for most of the second half. The Cougars did utilize some full court pressure and offensive rebounds from Mika to cut the USC lead to 5 points in the final couple minutes, but were not able to gain any more ground as the Trojans closed out the game in the final minute at the foul line.
While it was nice to see Kyle Davis return to action and play fairly well (10 points on 4/5 shooting, 4 rebounds in just 12 minutes), it’s clear that BYU has a lot of work to do if they want to make the NCAA Tournament. Once conference play rolls around, the only chance to get quality wins are against Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s, which makes this loss to an 8-0 USC team even more costly.
The Cougars (5-3) will be back in action on Wednesday night when they host in-state foe Weber State.