Stockton, Calif. • BYU’s success on the road this season was tripped up on Saturday night — by Pacific’s Jahlil Tripp.
The Tigers’ 6-foot-5 guard scored seven points in the final four minutes and finished with 22 as Pacific upset BYU 67-66 at Spanos Center.
After Pacific’s Jack Williams missed two free throws with 14 seconds left, the Cougars had a chance to pull it out late, but couldn’t capitalize. Jahshire Hardnett’s driving attempt was off-target, and Yoeli Childs wasn’t able to corral a rebound he got his hands on.
Zac Seljaas came up with the ball after a wild scramble, but his basket that would have won the game for BYU was ruled too late after video replay.
“I thought it was late,” said BYU coach Dave Rose.
So the Cougars fell to 2-2 in West Coast Conference play, 13-4 overall, and had their seven-game road winning streak snapped. BYU fell behind 36-29 at halftime, and played better in the second half, but could never put away the Tigers (2-2, 7-10) or get a handle on Tripp, a junior college transfer who was unstoppable down the stretch.
“We just gotta be better for two halves,” Rose said. “Our effort in the first half was so individual. It just was not connected. We were not individually connected, or physically in our execution connected.”
Elijah Bryant led BYU with 29 points and Childs added 13, but missed a free throw with 25 seconds left on the front end of a one-and-one opportunity. Bryant hit a 3-pointer with 15 seconds left to trim Pacific’s lead to one, and BYU had a chance late.
“If it was two points or less we wanted to take that thing right to the glass, and try to get fouled or something,” Rose said. “We got a decent shot up there. It could have gone in and won the game. Then we had a chance to rebound it, but it kinda went off our hands.”
Seljaas, who didn’t score in the game, said he wasn’t sure how the clock stood and just knew he had to fire it at the rim as soon as he got it.
“It was just a tough loss, but we have to be able to match [their play] and be able to guard and play together as a team,” he said.
The team’s locker rooms are close at Spanos Center, so the Cougars had to listen to and watch the Tigers celebrate the upset win.
“You get everybody’s best shot. You could hear them after the game, like they won the Super Bowl or something,” Bryant said. “That’s what we ask for when we put this jersey on.”
Pacific took a 58-56 lead with 4:34 remaining on a pair of free throws after the Cougars had surged ahead by as many as four in the second half despite trailing by seven at halftime. Childs tied it with a layup at the 4:15 mark, and the lead seesawed from there.
Tripp made two difficult shots back-to-back to give the Tigers a 62-61 lead, and the Cougars had a pair of empty possessions when they desperately needed a bucket.
The Cougars started well enough, making six of their first seven shots to take a 14-7 lead. However, they missed seven of their next nine shots, and Pacific took control by simply executing better on offense.
“The first half of the game we didn’t look like ourselves,” Rose said. “That’s probably the most disappointing thing. To be the kind of team we want to be, we have to come on the road and play two full, solid halves of basketball. We just weren’t able to do that.”
It was the first time since the UMass game in late November that BYU has trailed at halftime. The Cougars were down 38-28 but rallied to win 68-66.
Not this time.
“Defensively, we turned them on, let them get going,” Rose said. “It came down to the last play, and we couldn’t make it.”
Up next for BYU is a home game Thursday against Pepperdine.