Provo • They aren’t there yet, but the Cougars are getting closer to competing with Gonzaga and Saint Mary’s for a West Coast Conference championship, BYU coach Dave Rose said Saturday after the 74-64 overtime loss to the Gaels at the Marriott Center.

Calling the performance “a pretty good benchmark of where we are,” Rose said the Cougars’ inexperience showed late in the game when they blew a six-point lead with five minutes remaining in regulation and were dominated 14-4 in overtime by the senior-laden Gaels.

“I just think we are close, and we always think of ourselves [as having] an opportunity to compete for a league championship,” Rose said, alluding to how Saint Mary’s seniors Jock Landale, Emmett Naar and Calvin Hermanson have played more than 100 games together.

“We are in a group of four, five, six, seven different recruiting classes trying to put our team together and trying to find our way, and I think we are doing a pretty good job of it,” Rose said.

Pretty good wasn’t good enough against seasoned Saint Mary’s, however, and the Cougars (12-3) squandered a golden opportunity to knock off the preseason WCC favorites, who improved to 13-2.

“We kind of showed today with some inopportune mistakes and execution where we just weren’t able to get it done,” Rose said.

One glaring mistake came after Elijah Bryant hit a 3-pointer to give BYU a 55-49 lead and the Cougars got a defensive stop on the other end with 5:04 remaining in the game. The crowd of 16,212 was deafening, even without a majority of students on campus.

But sophomore guard Jahshire Hardnett recklessly drove into the paint and was tied up by Saint Mary’s Jordan Ford, resulting in a turnover because the possession arrow favored the Gaels. The under eight-minute media timeout came at 4:56 and not only halted BYU’s momentum, it silenced the crowd.

Saint Mary’s scored the game’s next seven points out of the timeout, and while BYU did lead briefly again with 2:09 remaining at 58-57, the Gaels asserted themselves.

“I didn’t think we were gassed,” said sophomore center Yoeli Childs, when offered that excuse. “I just think it was more mental than anything. Hats off to Saint Mary’s. Like TJ [Haws] said, they were very poised at the end. If you look at the game, they played consistently throughout it and we played up and down. We can’t be like that if we want to get where we want to go.”

Rose said analysts “can go back and look at a lot of things in the game” that enabled the Gaels to rally. One of those was free-throw shooting; McKay Cannon, who was 14 of 15 on the season, missed his only two. Another was a strange play with 49 seconds left in regulation when Bryant collided with Zac Seljaas and was called for traveling.

“We learned a ton of things,” Childs said. “The most important thing we learned is we need to be consistent throughout the whole game. We need to continue to take away what teams are good at, and towards the end we stopped doing that. And I think it is a good way for us to refocus. We were on a good streak, and now that’s done, so let’s get in the gym now on Monday and just work our butts off and be ready to play next week.”

That begins on Thursday at San Francisco (9-6, 1-1), which walloped host Portland 84-61 on Saturday by making a season-high 15 3-pointers. Freshman guard Souley Boum scored a career-high 26 points on 8-of-11 shooting.

Thursday’s game

BYU at San Francisco

9 p.m. MST.