Provo • With about 4 minutes left in the eventual 87-68 NCAA Tournament Round of 64 loss to Oregon on Thursday, and the game well out of hand, coach Dave Rose saw disappointment and exasperation in the eyes of his players for the first time.
Their season of ups and downs was over, the same problems that surfaced in their 11 previous losses having reared their ugly heads again.
Off the mark
BYU’s shooting in Thursday’s 87-68 NCAA Tournament loss to Oregon:
FGs » 20 of 61 (32.8%)
3s » 5 of 19 (26.3%)
FTs » 23 of 30 (76.7%)
In short, the Cougars (23-12) had trouble stopping Oregon’s dribble penetration, couldn’t close out fast enough on perimeter shooters, and the middle of their zone was soft in large part because key inside players such as Eric Mika, Nate Austin and Luke Worthington got in early foul trouble and they had no depth.
Offensively, the Cougars got little help from their bench, getting outscored 49-10 by Oregon’s reserves, and just couldn’t make enough big shots.
BYU shot 32.8 percent from the field, which, coincidentally, was the exact same percentage they shot in an 81-64 loss to Utah.
Oregon and Utah handed BYU its biggest and second-biggest losses of the season, 19 and 17 points.
"It didn’t really feel different until the [under] four-minute timeout," Rose said. "The four-minute timeout, it [took] a lot of encouragement from our coaching staff to try to get our guys back up and finish it, because they were pretty down there. But that was probably the only time I noticed a difference [in their fight and energy without injured star Kyle Collinsworth] in the huddle."
Rose lamented BYU’s shooting percentage and inability to keep Johnathan Loyd, Jason Calliste and Joseph Young from getting to the hoop, saying "we’re a much better shooting team than that."
He mentioned BYU’s defensive lapses, too, but mostly the coach heaped praise upon Oregon, saying the Ducks were 10 or 12 combined points from having much better than a 24-9 record.
"Add it to Oregon’s total at the right time, and you might have a 2 or 3 seed [instead of a 7]," Rose said. "They were too good."
That’s good and all, but the nagging question for Rose and his team as it begins to look ahead to next season is simple: Will the senior-less Cougars be better, especially in those areas that plagued them in 2013-14?
"No one likes the feeling in this locker room, I can tell you that," Tyler Haws said after scoring 19 points to finish the season with 767, the fifth-best scoring season in BYU history. "We know we are all good players, and we know we are talented. Hopefully, this is something we can build on and we can remember this feeling, and it will motivate us for next year."
There is some concern, mostly outside the program, that mercurial guard Matt Carlino might not return for his senior season. Carlino sort of dodged that question in the somber locker room after the loss — in the NCAA Tournament, locker rooms are open to the media after games, unlike in the regular season — but did speak as if he enjoyed the season that Rose said before the tournament was his best as a Cougar.
"I am not really looking towards next year right now, because it is so hard to even think about it," Carlino said. "This group of guys, they are amazing. It is tough to even think about not playing with this dude [Mika] or all these guys. They are great. I wouldn’t want to go out there with anyone else. This team, we have had a lot of good times through the rough times. That says a lot about a team. It was a fun year, but it is just hard to see it end this way."
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