Cougars come up short at No. 17 Saint Mary's 71-65
MORAGA, Calif. — BYU men’s basketball shot 47.0 percent from 3-point range and outrebounded Saint Mary’s but was unable overcome a 13-point second-half deficit in a 71-65 loss at the Gaels’ University Credit Union Pavilion on Saturday night.
“I am proud of our guys for competing and winning on the glass tonight,” said BYU head coach Mark Pope. “I’m super proud of their effort. Sometimes it’s head scratching. We can make the right play but we just don’t do it consistently enough.”
Down 61-49 with 6:55 to play, Richie Saunders came off the bench and sparked the Cougar offense to life with back-to-back 3-pointers. Following a pair of Saint Mary’s free throws, Dallin Hall drove into the paint and scored only to drain a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired on the next possession as well.
Saunders and Hall combined to bring BYU within three at 63-60 with 4:03 to go.
The Cougar defense stepped up next recovered possession after forcing a wild Saint Mary’s attempt late in the shot clock. Fousseyni Traore then went to work in the post with a reverse score to bring BYU all the way back within one at 63-62.
As they had Jan. 28 in Provo, the Gaels found an answer to BYU’s late-game heroics with a decisive shot from point guard Aidan Mahaney. Mahaney stepped back and nailed a 3-pointer to put Saint Mary’s on top 68-62 with 46 seconds to play.
While the Gaels outshot BYU 50-42 percent for the night, the Cougars exceeded their average from beyond the arc, hitting 47.0 percent of 3-point attempts to Saint Mary’s 31 percent. BYU made 8-of-10 free throw attempts to the Gaels 15-of-21. Despite seven first-half turnovers, the Cougars clamped down on the ball and gave away just four in the second period. BYU also slightly edged the Gaels in rebounding 31-30, including an 11-7 advantage on the offensive glass and 16-9 in second-chance points.
Saint Mary’s difference-maker came in the paint as they outscored BYU 40-26 at close range. Eight fastbreak points from the Gaels didn’t help the Cougar cause either.
BYU posted four double-figure scorers with Traore leading the way. The sophomore from Bamako, Mali put up 16 points on 7-of-11 shooting from the field to go along with six rebounds.
Spencer Johnson provided BYU a big boost early with 12 points in the first half and seven rebounds for the game. Rudi Williams and Noah Waterman added 12 and 11 points, respectively.
With one game remaining in West Coast Conference, BYU currently sits seventh in the West Coast Conference standings at 6-9 in league play. The Cougars are still in play for the No. 5 seed for the conference tournament but need a win against San Francisco next Saturday to put themselves in position for a first round bye.
BYU returns home to close the regular season with a senior night showdown versus San Francisco on Feb. 25 at 8 p.m. MST. Watch the Cougars take-on the Dons on ESPNU or listen live on BYU Radio Sirius XM 143, BYURadio.org/BYU Radio app or KSL 102.7 FM/1160 AM.
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