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PROVO — BYU's final trip to Gersten Pavilion as members of the West Coast Conference was topsy turvy, and it turned around the Cougars' 9-3 record against LMU in Los Angeles.
The best hair in the conference — the Lions' 6-foot-6, 240-pound forward Keli Leaupepe — drained 3-pointers, and 6-foot-2 guard Cam Shelton tied for the team high with six rebounds as Loyola Marymount upended the Cougars' seven-games win streak with a 64-59 loss Thursday night in the City of Angels.
Don't mess with the Mullet from Melbourne, Australia.
Shelton finished with 14 points and six assists; and Leaupepe added 15 points, four rebounds and two assists to lead LMU (12-5, 2-1 WCC). Alex Merkviladze supplied 12 points and six boards for LMU, which bullied the Cougars with 35 rebounds, five blocked shots and a 15-of-23 clip from the free-throw line to help make up for 14 turnovers.
In BYU's first loss since a 75-60 home setback to Utah Valley nearly a month ago, LMU forced 13 turnovers, including four in the final 3:38.
"We didn't play great, but I'm really proud of the guys. They're fighting," BYU coach Mark Pope told BYU Radio. "We need to get a lot better, and we will, but it was certainly a tough night for us."
Gideon George led BYU (12-6, 2-1 WCC) with 13 points and five rebounds, but went 0-for-4 from 3-point range. Fousseyni Traore added 13 points, three rebounds and two assists; and Dallin Hall added 10 points and four assists for the Cougars, who shot 2-of-13 from deep and just 5-of-9 from the free-throw line to lose for just the sixth time in program history to the Lions.
LMU used a 7-0 run midway through the first half to lead by as much as five, but shot just 35% from the field and was scoreless from the field for over eight minutes in the first half down the stretch en route to a 33-33 halftime stalemate.
The Lions made just one of their final 10 field goals in the half but scored 7 points on seven turnovers to keep BYU from taking advantage.
George had a game-high 9 points to lead the Cougars, and Traore added 7 points, two rebounds and two assists in just 11 minutes. Both teams led for exactly 7:26 of the first half as BYU shot just 1-of-5 from 3-point range.
But the Cougars led for less than three minutes after halftime, when they shot just 12-of-32 from the field, 1-of-8 from 3-point range and 1-of-3 from the free-throw line. BYU's 59 points, 13 3-point attempts, two 3-pointers, nine free-throw attempt and five free-throws made all marked season lows on the 2022-23 season.
Pope wouldn't let the last two get to him — even if he acknowledged his displeasure with several calls in the second half — because of the Cougars' poor marks in the other three marks. BYU put in a strong performance elsewhere, getting downhill on offense and outscoring the Lions 46-28 in the paint, but gave up seven 3-pointers on the other end.
There were plenty of other reasons why the Cougars lost, the coach added.
"We were just so limited with our movement on offense, we allowed ourselves to get stuck. We didn't beat their physicality with our pace and movement," Pope said. "That was problematic. They got us in isolation a few times and that hurt us."
LMU made just three of its first 11 shots in the second half, but Leaupepe knocked down the Lions' third 3-pointer of the half to pace a 6-0 run that gave the hosts a 49-44 edge with 10:49 remaining, and the Lions never trailed again.
BYU travels down the California coast to face San Diego at 6 p.m. MST Saturday.
"We know what we signed up for this year," Pope said. "This team has been very good about working hard to get better. We'll get started right away on a team that is very talented, and has had some near misses on some great wins.
"We know the challenge that is ahead of us, but here we go. … This league is going to chew everybody up a little bit. It's going to be about who can embrace the grind and keep getting better through it. I think we're equipped to do that."