Brandon Davies said he couldn't put a finger on the reason the BYU basketball team lost 74-68 at San Diego on Thursday night, but coach Dave Rose didn't hesitate when he was asked basically the same question outside a somber locker room at Jenny Craig Pavilion.
The Cougars (18-7, 8-3 WCC) made only half their free throws (11 of 22), were outrebounded 41-34 and committed 15 turnovers, including some that were just plain "knucklehead plays," in the words of Tyler Haws.
If there was a stretch that really killed the Cougars, not counting the last 10 minutes of the first half, it was about midway through the second half when USD was baffled by BYU's 1-3-1 zone and scored just three points -- a three-pointer by Ken Rancifer -- on nine possessions.
Several times the Cougars got a big steal, but couldn't convert on the other end.
"We had a lot of opportunities in transition and kinda had good looks, and didn't convert," Rose said. "We got to the free-throw line, and had a hard time converting there. So it wasn't our best game."
It certainly wasn't.
The Cougars credited San Diego, as they usually do when they lose. Indeed, the Toreros made big shots when they had to have them, especially sophomore guard Johnny Dee, who finished with 19 points after not scoring in the game's first 11-plus minutes.
Still, with Dee and fellow guard Christopher Anderson not going off in the first half, the Toreros still scored 40 points. BYU's defense in the first half was putrid; Starter Josh Sharp was pulled when it was obvious he couldn't stay with any of USD's bigs, and he played just nine minutes. Nate Austin logged 21 minutes at the four spot.
Davies, who was 4-for-10 from the free-throw line, agreed that poor free-throw shooting, and the inability to convert steals into buckets, was costly.
"We definitely picked it up [defensively] in the second half," Davies said. "We got them to turn it over a couple of times. We just didn't convert them when we got them. It is tough to chip back at a deficit like that when we are playing hard defensively and we are just not converting."
Aside from some bad turnovers, Matt Carlino played reasonably well in the first half, scoring 9 points on 4 of 8 shooting. But he didn't score in the second half, going 0 for 4. Rose felt like an offensive foul called on Carlino in the first half made the sophomore more cautious in the second half, less willing to push the pace.
"We got a lot of baskets early in transition," Rose said. "We would get to the rim, and then a couple of offensive fouls were called on us that kinda slowed us down as far as our aggressiveness at the point of attack.
But it came down to the fact that the first half, that second 10 minutes of the first half, we were having a hard time getting stops.
They seemed to be scoring at will. We tried to make some adjustments, and like I said, we never really got into a flow offensively.
It is a good defensive team, it is a team that makes you do things out of your comfort zone. And like I said, we never had a good flow to the game, offensively."
In fairness to Carlino, it was his first subpar game in quite a while, perhaps since WCC play began. After dumping 28 points on Santa Clara, he finished 4 of 14 fro the field. He had five turnovers to go with four steals and four assists.
Brock Zylstra also struggled mightily, going 0 for 7 from the field, and scoreless. A starter who plays 28 minutes has got to produce more than just two assists and six rebounds.
"It just seemed like we were having a hard time getting a flow to the game, especially offensively," Rose said.
The Cougars play host to San Francisco on Saturday, then have their midweek bye before hosting Portland a week from Saturday.
Davies said the Cougars will bounce back "like we always do. We never let one loss turn into two. We got a lot of work we need to do. We have another game this week and a big week coming up after that. We just got to get ourselves mentally and physically ready for that."
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