Spokane, Wash. • The BYU Cougars have taken some momentum into 6,000-seat McCarthey Athletic Center in their three stunning upsets at nationally ranked Gonzaga the past three seasons, including last year’s 79-71 win over the No. 1-ranked and undefeated Zags that shocked the college basketball world.
That won’t happen this season.
The Cougars turned over the ball 16 times and were a miserable 5 of 24 from 3-point range in a 76-69 setback at Loyola Marymount on Thursday night in one of their most embarrassing losses of the Dave Rose era. Loyola Marymount got its second West Coast Conference win and snapped a 10-game losing streak to BYU by coming up with 14 steals and committing just eight turnovers.
“We were just not comfortable out there,” said junior McKay Cannon, who combined with fellow guards TJ Haws and Jahshire Hardnett to go 3 of 15 from the floor with five turnovers. “We didn’t show any confidence out there.”
That’s not exactly the recipe to knock off No. 14 Gonzaga, which improved to 20-4 with a 69-59 win over San Diego on Thursday night at the Kennel two hours before the Cougars suffered another one of their inexplicable losses to a lower-tier WCC team. Saturday’s tipoff is at 8 p.m. MST, and the long-awaited rematch — at least by Zags fans — will be televised by ESPN2.
“We don’t lose two in a row, so we are going to come out with that edge and that mindset that we are going to go into this place and win,” said BYU forward Yoeli Childs. “We know the hard work we have put in and we are going to come out and do everything we can to get this win against a very good team.”
The Cougars had won five straight and were coming off an 82-69 win at Portland when they defeated No. 2 Gonzaga 73-70 in 2015. They had won three straight and were coming off a 102-92 home win over San Francisco when they downed the No. 21 Zags 69-68 in 2016. They suffered a discouraging 70-57 loss at the Marriott Center to Saint Mary’s, but bounced back with a 97-78 win at Portland before the stunner that ruined GU’s perfect season last season.
Rose discounted the momentum and confidence factors after the loss at LMU that all but crushed BYU’s hopes for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, saying every opponent presents a “different challenge.”
BYU is now 40-11 against WCC opponents not named Saint Mary’s or Gonzaga in the past four seasons. The Zags are 52-0 against the other seven, the Gaels 44-4.
“We will regroup here and get ready for the Zags,” Rose said. “They are a really, really talented team. A lot of the same things [apply]. We gotta make sure the game is cleaner for us and we don’t turn the ball over. We can’t give them multiple shots on the same possession. Those are probably the two things we really gotta make sure are different in that game than they were in this game to have a different outcome.”
Leading scorer Elijah Bryant was “scraped across the face pretty good” by LMU’s Mattias Markusson with 6 minutes 30 seconds remaining in the first half, Rose said, and missed the rest of the half. The Cougars made just one field goal and were outscored 12-7 with Bryant on the bench getting treatment from athletic trainer Rob Ramos.
“We will see” how he recovers, Rose said. “I think that he still feels it. But he’s a tough kid. He stayed in there in the second half and played hard and competed.”
Bryant scored 19 of BYU’s 38 points in the second half but got little help from his teammates, who lost their poise in the final minutes. Yoeli Childs said his technical foul was “unacceptable” and he “let my team down by reacting that way” to Markusson’s physical play that went unpenalized, in his opinion.
“We have no choice but to bounce back,” Cannon said. “We got to find out who we really are. There are always times during the season when you just got to man up and look each other in the eyes and know what’s next. You can either falter, or come together and prove yourselves. Hopefully that’s what we can do.”
BYU AT GONZAGA
Where • McCarthey Athletic Center, Spokane, Wash.
Tipoff • 8 p.m. MST
TV • ESPN2
Radio • 1160 AM, 102.7 FM, Sirius XM 143
Records • BYU 18-6, 7-4 WCC; Gonzaga 20-4, 10-1 WCC
Series history • Gonzaga leads 12-6
Last meeting • BYU won 79-71 (Feb. 25, 2017)
About the Cougars • They dropped to 55th in Ken Pomeroy’s ratings after Thursday’s 76-69 loss at LMU, which was No. 237 in Kenpom.com rankings. … Elijah Bryant was 8 of 14 for 24 points in the loss and Yoeli Childs had 15 points and 13 rebounds, but no other Cougars scored more than eight points. … They haven’t lost at Gonzaga since Jan. 25, 2014, an 84-69 setback. … G McKay Cannon scored 25 points in his first two games for BYU but has scored just 59 points in the 16 subsequent games.
About the Bulldogs • Johnathan Williams scored a team-high 14 points and Zach Norvell Jr. and Josh Perkins added 13 apiece in their 69-59 win over San Diego at McCarthey Athletic Center on Thursday. … They now have won 20 or more games in 21 straight seasons. Only Duke (19-3) and Kansas (18-4) have more, as the Blue Devils are trying for their 22nd straight and the Jayhawks are trying for their 29th straight. … Freshman G Jesse Wade is from Kaysville and played at Davis High School.