Provo • Wednesday’s 70-69 loss to St. Mary’s is going to leave a mark — and might just pain BYU more in two months than it does the day after, if that’s possible.
Senior guard Matthew Dellavedova’s double-clutching, running, off-balance buzzer-beater from a step or two inside the halfcourt line as some 14,857 onlookers gasped in disbelief at the Marriott Center seriously damaged the Cougars’ hopes of making the NCAA Tournament for a seventh-straight year.
“We knew coming it that it was going to be a boxing match, and that is what it was for 40 minutes, is back and forth,” said BYU guard Tyler Haws, who made the go-ahead basket with 2.5 seconds left that would have gone down in Cougar basketball lore, if not for Delly’s heroics seconds later.
“I don’t know how many lead changes there were. It felt like it kept going back and forth. But give them a lot of credit, they are a good team,” Haws said.
The Cougars (4-1 WCC, 14-5 overall) are a good team, too, at times, but will they be considered good enough on March 17 when bids to the Big Dance are handed out?
Despite having a decent RPI in the 30s, the Cougars lack what the selection committee considers “good wins,” and they certainly blew their chance to get one Wednesday. BYU doesn’t have any “bad losses,” either, but blowing an early 16-point lead on its home court to a team that lost to the likes of Pacific and Northern Iowa might qualify, in some circles.
“It is always hard when you lose like that,” BYU’s Matt Carlino said, referring to the buzzer-beater and the Cougars’ meltdown early in the second half when SMC erased its halftime deficit in the space of about five minutes.
Meanwhile, the Gaels (3-1, 14-4) probably played their way back into the tournament picture by snapping BYU’s 12-game homecourt winning streak.
Adding to BYU’s frustration is the fact that the Cougars dominated the game statistically except in one key area: rebounding. Saint Mary’s won the battle on the boards 36-29 and grabbed 14 offensive rebounds to BYU’s five.
“I think a lot of times when we contested shots, we guarded them and got them to miss, that they were able to get a second shot and score,” BYU coach Dave Rose said. “That was a big key to them, not only in their comeback, but it was also key in keeping us, when we were trying to make a run, from coming back at them.
“So that’s their style, that’s what they do, that’s what they are good at. We just need to be better.”
Carlino “played hard and played well, and had a couple of tough falls and still [got] after it,” Rose said when asked how the sophomore’s sore back was doing after the game. “Hopefully, he will feel [better] tomorrow, but we will see.”
Carlino was brilliant at times (16 points on 6-for-12 shooting, with five assists) and wildly inconsistent at times (six turnovers, poor shot selection). And Brandon Davies has still not played well since spraining his ankle against Virginia Tech, going 6-for-14 from the field with two turnovers and no rebounds before fouling out in 24 minutes.
Saint Mary’s “put a lot of pressure on us,” Rose explained, declining a possible opportunity to criticize any of his players.
San Diego at BYU
Saturday, 7 p.m.