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Pippen Jr. too much as BYU basketball falls to Vanderbilt in Hawaii

Brigham Young Cougars forward Fousseyni Traore (45) tries to grab a rebound over Weber State Wildcats forward Dyson Koehler (44) in Ogden on Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021. BYU won 89-71.

Brigham Young Cougars forward Fousseyni Traore (45) tries to grab a rebound over Weber State Wildcats forward Dyson Koehler (44) in Ogden on Saturday, Dec. 18, 2021. BYU won 89-71. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

PROVO — In a game that featured budding stars Alex Barcello of BYU and Scottie Pippen Jr. of Vanderbilt, one of them was bound to have a big night in the semifinals of the Diamond Head Classic.

Advantage, Pippen.

The son of the six-time NBA champion scored 16 points in the second half — all in the final eight minutes — to finish with 23 points and three assists as Vanderbilt pulled into the championship game of the eight-team tournament with a 69-67 win Thursday night at the Stan Sheriff Center in Honolulu, Hawaii.

Barcello scored 15 points with five rebounds to lead BYU (10-3), including a 3-pointer with 1:06 left to pull the Cougars within two. But the final shot never went down, and BYU took its third loss of the season in the Commodores' first win of the year after trailing at halftime.

"He's the SEC preseason player of the year. He's a really talented player," BYU coach Mark Pope said of Pippen, who isn't the first in his family to be a nemesis for a Utah-based basketball team. "We can't fix this outcome, but we can get better."

With Barcello on the bench with four fouls, BYU stopped Pippen with 41 seconds left and freshman Fousseyni Traore grabbed one of his career-high 15 rebounds to give the Cougars a chance at a win.

Pope returned Barcello to the floor for the final shot. But the senior missed a layup with eight seconds left, grabbed his own rebound for a putback attempt, and a plea to the officials for a foul on Jordan Wright's defensive play down low rang on deaf ears as Vanderbilt celebrated perhaps its biggest win of the season to advance to Saturday's championship.

"I would probably say it's the most important game we've played because we were able to come out with the W in the end," said Vanderbilt guard Myles Stute, who had 14 points and seven rebounds. "That's my favorite part of it, overall.

"I'm just proud of these guys. We fought really hard to get this done. Everyone stepped up when they needed to."

But 24 hours after surviving a defensive slugfest with South Florida, Pope didn't make excuses about officiating or the final play for the loss. He pointed, instead, to areas where the Cougars can get better — particularly, the 19 turnovers, and Vanderbilt's 18 points off those turnovers.

Both teams made 24 field goals, including eight 3-pointers. But Vanderbilt took three more shots, despite being out rebounded 43-31. In two games at the Diamond Head Classic, BYU has committed 35 turnovers.

"It's obviously a super disappointing outcome," Pope said. "I thought my guys had good fight and good force; I thought they competed well. We're just having a really tough time the last two games protecting the ball.

"We need to make some strides there, and we will. The season is an opportunity to do better."

Pippen scored the final 16 points of the game for Vanderbilt, which advanced to face Stanford on Saturday on ESPN. BYU will play Liberty for third place Saturday at 4 p.m. MST.

Spencer Johnson added 11 points, four rebounds and three assists for BYU, and Caleb Lohner supplied 11 points and five boards for the Cougars, who outscored the Commodores 27-11 off the bench. Trevin Knell finished with 10 points, including three 3-pointers, for BYU.

Knell had 7 points to spark a 12-0 run early, and Gideon George had 2 points, two rebounds, two steals, a block and an assist as BYU led by as much as 7 points in the first half. The Cougars shot 38% from the field before the break, and held Vandy to just 30% while outrebounding their SEC foe 26-15 en route to a 35-30 halftime lead on Johnson's putback at the buzzer.

Vanderbilt tied the game at 38-all on Jordan Wright's 8-2 run in the first four minutes of the second half. But the Commodores led for just over 5 minutes total, and BYU took the lead for good from an unlikely source: its bench, and a 3-pointer by Lohner.

Lohner hit just his second triple in 20 attempts with 12:59 remaining, right after Vandy had 48-45 advantage following a 7-0 spurt. Vanderbilt never led by more than five down the stretch as Pippen outscored the Cougars 16-10 — but only needed to lead by two when the final horn sounded.

"It's hard to win when you turn the ball over 20 times," Pope said. "You're just giving 20 more possessions to the other team. I've got to do a better job of putting our guys in position to protect this ball; I can, and I will.

"It's not us. It's not who we've been, and it's something we've got to fix."

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