Los Angeles • The BYU Cougars and their coaching staff will do a lot of soul-searching in the next 24 hours, and not just because it is Sunday.
Seemingly on a high entering West Coast Conference play after taking some of the top programs in the country to the wire, the Cougars were brought down to earth Saturday afternoon by the team that has had the worst winning percentage in the WCC in the last 13 years.
The defensively challenged Cougars made the Loyola Marymount Lions look like the Lakers and freshman guard Evan Payne look like Magic Johnson in front of a small but rowdy crowd of 2,908 at Gersten Pavilion.
The visitors, playing before a pro-BYU crowd, were embarrassed 87-76 in the WCC opener for both teams.
“We have got a lot of issues, OK?” BYU coach Dave Rose said after the Cougars (8-6) lost their third straight game, and fourth of the last five. “Defensively, we really need to improve to compete in this league.”
The Cougars have gotten away with shoddy defense against teams of LMU’s caliber by averaging 89.2 points per game, but on this warm, gorgeous day in SoCal, their offense deserted them as well, and that was a perfect recipe for an LMU upset.
BYU shot just 44 percent from the field, made just three 3-pointers, committed 12 turnovers and missed nine free throws, which isn’t exactly news after misfires at the charity stripe kept the Cougars from upsetting No. 13 Oregon last weekend.
Hard to believe, but that same team that fell 100-96 in overtime in Eugene responded with an effort that rivaled the one at Utah, and was strikingly similar. The Cougars were never really in this one.
The Lions jumped out to a 17-5 lead and never let the Cougars get closer than 10 the rest of the way. During that game-opening run, the Cougars had seven-straight empty possessions, while watching LMU freshman guard Evan Payne start to go off.
Payne, who entered the game with a 14.1 average, scored a career-high 27, the fourth-most points by a freshman in school history. Anthony Ireland, a BYU-killer in the Cougars’ first two seasons in the WCC, added 14 points and nine assists. The Lions were 8 of 17 from 3-point range.
“I thought they played really well,” Rose said. “LMU was good from start to finish. They kind of jumped us there. We had a hard time making baskets early, and they got a lead, and those two guards were just really good. They controlled the game from there.”
Again, BYU’s inside players — Eric Mika and Nate Austin — got in early foul trouble and combined to play only 24 minutes in the first half, which greatly hampered the Cougars’ half-court offensive attack. Mika still finished with 17 points in 26 minutes.
Compounding the Cougars’ woes was the fact that Tyler Haws, the WCC’s leading scorer with a 23-point average, struggled to make shots and couldn’t get to the free-throw line. He got just two freebies and finished with a season-low 11 points on 4 of 15 shooting.
Payne shot 12 free throws, making 10.
“It is tough to say what happened,” said BYU guard Kyle Collinsworth, who led the Cougars with 18 points. “I just think we need to play harder than our opponent, and that’s not what we did when we first came out. That has got to be more of an emphasis for us.”
Loyola Marymount 87, BYU 76
Mika 5-8 7-11 17, Carlino 4-13 4-4 13, Haws 4-15 2-2 11, Collinsworth 7-13 4-5 18, Austin 1-1 0-0 2, Sharp 0-0 0-0 0, Winder 2-4 0-2 4, Halford 2-2 0-0 5, Bartley IV 3-7 0-2 6, Worthington 0-0 0-0 0.
Totals 28-63 17-26 76.
LOYOLA MARYMOUNT (9-4)
Payne 6-18 10-12 27, Blackwell 5-9 1-1 11, Ireland 5-15 3-5 14, Osborne 4-6 0-0 8, Levin 4-9 3-5 12, Dickinson 1-6 2-2 4, Stover 1-1 0-0 2, Flint 1-2 0-0 3, Mornar 2-3 2-2 6.
Totals 29-69 21-27 87
Halftime—Loyola Marymount 48-33. 3-Point Goals—BYU 3-10 (Halford 1-1, Haws 1-2, Carlino 1-4, Winder 0-1, Bartley IV 0-2), Loyola Marymount 8-17 (Payne 5-9, Levin 1-1, Flint 1-2, Ireland 1-3, Blackwell 0-1, Dickinson 0-1). Fouled Out—Austin, Carlino. Rebounds—BYU 42 (Collinsworth 8), Loyola Marymount 39 (Osborne 8). Assists—BYU 14 (Bartley IV 4), Loyola Marymount 19 (Ireland 9). Total Fouls—BYU 21, Loyola Marymount 20. A—2,908.