Williams' buzzer beater lifts Santa Clara to improbable home win over BYU

Brigham Young Cougars head coach Mark Pope is pictured as BYU and San Diego play in an NCAA basketball game in Provo o at the Marriott Center on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022

Brigham Young Cougars head coach Mark Pope is pictured as BYU and San Diego play in an NCAA basketball game in Provo o at the Marriott Center on Thursday, Jan. 20, 2022 (Mengshin Lin, Deseret News)


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PROVO — In the end, seconds was just long enough for Santa Clara's leading scorer.

Down one in the final seven seconds, Jalen Williams went coast-to-coast for a layup on the final play of the game to lift the Broncos to a 77-76 win over BYU, setting off a limited-capacity court storming Thursday night in the Leavey Center in Santa Clara, California.

Williams finished with a game-high 26 points, including four 3-pointers, and former Wasatch Academy standout Josip Vrankic supplied 14 points, four rebounds and four assists for the Broncos (13-7, 3-2 WCC), who beat BYU for the first time since 2017.

"They got a lane violation, which helped us out," Williams told ESPNU after being mobbed by his teammates at midcourt. "Coach told us to attack the rim, and that's exactly what happened.

"It's awesome. It's just a testament to how hard we worked over the summer. It just shows we can compete with anyone."

Alex Barcello poured in 20 points, including four 3-pointers, with four assists to lead BYU, and Te'Jon Lucas added 17 points and three assists for BYU, which lost for the second time in West Coast Conference play.

Fousseyni Traore added 10 points and 15 rebounds for the Cougars (17-5, 6-2 WCC), the fifth double-double of the season for the freshman from Mali by way of Wasatch Academy.

"This is life on the road; it's hard. I have no issues with the guys' competitive fire," BYU coach Mark Pope said. "I just need to be a better coach so we can function a little bit better to win this game."

The two teams, ranked 28th and 85th in the NCAA's NET rankings prior to tipoff, exchanged the lead 20 times until forcing a 70-70 all-square contest at the final media timeout with 3:56 on the clock.

BYU's defense tried to take care of the rest, holding the Broncos scoreless from the field for more than three minutes until PJ Pipes hit a 3-pointer with 45 seconds left. It almost worked, too.

Traore responded with a putback basket with 15 seconds left, though, and the Cougars was doing just enough to hold on in a game where neither side led by more than 4 points.

With less than a minute to go, BYU had an 87% chance of winning, according to ESPN stats and information.

Unlikely? No, just college basketball.

But there was plenty of time left for Williams, especially after BYU committed a lane violation following Spencer Johnson's intentional miss from the free-throw line with eight seconds left.

"It's pretty hard losing the game on the tail end like that," said a stunned Gideon George, who had 13 points, six rebounds and three assists. "It's really hard. I don't know; it's just pretty hard."

The Cougars outshot Santa Clara 49% to 46% from the field, 36% to 32% from 3-point range, and 75% to 60% from the free-throw line. The visitors even outrebounded the Broncos 40-31, scored 13 points off 11 turnovers, and outpaced Santa Clara 26-12 off the bench.

The Broncos shot just 6 of 19 from 3-point range but matched BYU with 31 made field goals — none bigger than the last one.

"They were great at the rim," Pope said. "We had no answer for them; we felt small. It's been a chronic issue for us for a month. I loved our guys' effort, I love the way we competed, but we could not manage things at the rim."

But BYU, which had 18 turnovers itself, never led by more than 4 points — including after the largest run of the night of 8-0 — and left the door open for the Broncos' comeback.

Williams was more than happy to stick his foot in the door — and slam it shut with no time on the clock.

With the win, Santa Clara moved up five spots to No. 80 in KenPom, while BYU inched up to No. 23. The Cougars face a quick turnaround to Saturday at Pacific (7:30 p.m. MST, ESPNU).

"There's not a lot of time to ruminate," Pope said. "We have a huge game on Saturday, so there's not a lot of time to spend on this. We kind of wrapped it up in the locker room; we just weren't able to do some things that we knew we needed to do to have a chance to win this game.

"We'll get better. I know we'll respond well. But it's super disappointing."

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