Provo • They didn’t defend all that well, they were smoked in the rebounding battle and, worst of all, they suffered through one of their most pathetic 3-point shooting performances in the history of the Marriott Center.
No wonder the BYU Cougars’ hopes of contending for a West Coast Conference championship in their first year in the league were probably dashed Thursday night. Their goal of making a sixth straight trip to the NCAA Tournament might be gone, too, if they can’t win the conference tourney next month.
Upstart Loyola Marymount, an 18-point underdog, stunned the Cougars 82-68 in front of 12,751 disbelieving fans, handing BYU a rare home loss and its second setback in WCC play.
“Loyola played a great game against us,” said BYU coach Dave Rose. “I thought they defended us really well, contested almost every pass and every shot. … It seemed like every time we had a run or a chance they made a big play. They deserved to win.”
The belief that BYU, now 16-5 overall, 5-2 in the WCC, deserves a NCAA Tournament berth now has to be questioned, after the Cougars made just two of 25 3-point attempts in their own building. The Cougars missed their first 13 shots from behind the arc, as LMU refused to leave shooters alone on the outside to double-down on Noah Hartsock and Brandon Davies as most others team have done.
“I don’t think we were moving the ball as well as we usually do,” said Hartsock, who led the Cougars with a career-high 28 points on 11 for 15 shooting. “Credit to LMU, they played great defense tonight … they made it tough to score.”
Davies, who added 14 points, said the Cougars weren’t mentally ready to handle the kind of challenge LMU presented.
The Lions outrebounded BYU 42-33 in winning their fourth league road game.
“Everyone wants to beat us because of who we are,” Davies said. “We have to prepare for that mentally. We have to come prepared to play. They outplayed us tonight.”
And it was evident early that LMU — perhaps fueled in confidence by its late rally against the Cougars in a 73-65 loss two weeks ago in Los Angeles — was not going to wilt in what coach Max Good said was a critical test for his team “after they beat our tail at our place.”
The Lions added BYU to the list of teams they have upset this year that includes UCLA and St. Louis.
“We are proud of this, because it took a great effort and we had to play with a lot of poise to beat a great team on their home court,” Good said.
Anthony Ireland hurt the Cougars time and again with penetration, and finished with 27 points. Drew Viney added 21 and the Lions (11-8, 4-2) held the Cougars off down the stretch by making free throws, finishing 29 of 36 from the stripe.
Not since they were 1 for 15 (6.7 percent) against UNLV in 2004 have the Cougars shot worse from 3-point range at home.
The Cougars don’t have much time to lick their wounds. They play at Pepperdine on Saturday.
“We will find out what we got with this team,” Rose said.
R In Short • BYU’s hopes of contending for the WCC title take a serious blow with a huge upset loss to Loyola Marymount.
Key Moment • The Cougars go 6 minutes and 40 seconds without a field goal in the second half.
Key Stat • BYU makes just 2 of 25 3-point attempts, a season-low eight percent.