PROVO -- After leading for almost the entire first 11 minutes of the game, BYU was forced to hand the game over to St. Mary’s with Stephen Holt’s layup — a lead that would be held by the Gaels for the remainder of the game.
BYU came out with a 98-82 loss in its first-ever WCC game. With the gap between the Cougars and Gaels ever increasing as the minutes on the clock turned down, BYU’s struggles on Thursday were blatantly present on both ends of the court.
In the first 11 minutes of the game, BYU was able to decently hold off SMC’s top two leading scorers Rob Jones (4 points) and Matthew Dellavedova (5 points).
Though BYU was able to stop the Gaels' two scorers averaging above 14 points per game, the Gaels simply drew upon their third leading scorer — averaging 9.2 ppg — to keep the game close (10 points).
With Holt’s layup with 9:07 left in the half, the Gaels broke down the restricting defense walls and flooded out the Cougars with their unstoppable shots from the paint to the arc.
“There’s a lot of defense at times that we missed that we usually don’t miss — we did a lot of that in the first half,” BYU forward Charles Abouo said. “We just wanted to get out those easy baskets … come out and try to win the game, and unfortunately it didn’t happen.”
In addition to the Gaels' increased success on offense, the Cougars were greatly hurt by their early foul trouble. By the time the Gaels took the lead (22-20) with Holt’s layup, the Cougars already had Abouo with two fouls, Craig Cusick with one and Brock Zylstra with two. By the end of the first half, Abouo had one more foul, Cusick two more and new players adding to the foul trouble — Davies one, Austin one, Carlino one and Hartsock one.
The foul trouble infused short spurts for the Cougars, such as Abouo’s back-to-back jumper, defensive rebound and then three-point jumper executed while his sub waited on the side — but nothing lasting long enough to combat SMC’s ever deepening lead.
“We just couldn’t consistently get stops to start the game, and it just put so much pressure on us to score on every possession to stay in the game that we got in a hurry,” BYU head coach Dave Rose said. “We turned the ball over and it was those turnovers in the first half that led to 14 points (scored) … hard to overcome that.”
BYU’s ability to execute in the paint on offense was one of the biggest factors keeping the Cougars in the game the first half. In the second half, the Gaels' defense permeated through every hole on the court and the Cougars were forced into sloppy pass-ins that led to even more turnovers.
Despite the heavy turnovers, BYU flirted with the line of a potential comeback several times in the second half.
“In the second half … we had chances to get that thing down to 10, 12, nine and we just didn’t execute like we needed to,” Rose said.
One of the players greatly contributing to the comebacks was Davies. Finishing the game with a career high of 28 points, Davies demonstrates the lesson that a game analysis cannot be made simply off of the end score. Despite the 16-point loss, the Cougars are seeing some progress and success.
“I think the last three weeks (Davies has) really turned the corner in what he expects for himself,” Rose said. “I think that tonight … he was really active, and that’s what we like the most about how he’s playing … how he contested (in a) physical competitive game, I thought Brandon really rose up and played well.”
With much to work on, Rose is still confident in his team’s potential ability and the potential wins ahead.
“I think that this team has the potential to get a lot better,” Rose said. “This is extremely disappointing to our players because we thought we’d come in and win this game, but St. Mary’s just played better than we did.”