Los Angeles • BYU was able to overcome 15- and 18-point deficits in its past two visits to Loyola Marymount to escape with wins as heavy favorites at Gertsen Pavilion, but that tactic didn’t work Thursday night.
The fired-up Lions looked nothing like the West Coast Conference’s last-place team, which they were when the night began. They took an 11-point lead over the third-place Cougars at halftime and a 15-point lead early in the second half, but refused to give it all up this time and rolled to a surprising 76-69 win, beating BYU for the first time in its past 11 tries.
“They just had nothing to lose and they were very confident in themselves,” said BYU guard McKay Cannon. “You could tell they came into this prepared, and we didn’t follow what we were supposed to do.”
It wasn’t the Cougars’ night, and Loyola Marymount had a lot to do with it. The Lions mixed some aggressive pressure defense with an array of circus shots and flat out-hustled the lethargic Cougars to pull off the upset as 10-point underdogs.
James Batemon led the way with 28 points and Eli Scott added 19 as Loyola Marymount improved to 7-15 overall and 2-9 in league play, and moved out of the WCC cellar, which is now inhabited by Pepperdine.
“I don’t know what was uglier, the stat sheet or the actual game itself,” said BYU coach Dave Rose.
The Cougars dropped to 18-6 and 7-4 and lost any momentum heading into Saturday’s showdown at No. 14 Gonzaga.
It was Loyola Marymount’s first win over BYU since an 87-76 decision on Dec. 28, 2013 at Gertsen.
Elijah Bryant returned from a first-half blow to the face to lead BYU with 24 points, while Yoeli Childs added 15 points and 13 rebounds. Childs also picked up a technical foul in the final minutes that all but ended the Cougars’ comeback bid.
“That’s not acceptable on my end,” Childs said. “I let my team down.”
The Cougars missed 12 straight 3-point attempts during one stretch before Bryant hit a 3 with 7:11 remaining. Childs’ 3-point play cut the deficit to five a minute later, but the Lions recovered with five free-throws to stretch the lead to 10.
Bryant scored five straight points again a few minutes later to trim Loyola Marymount’s lead to five again, but Batemon made free throws and Mattias Markusson had a tip-in that sealed it.
“They made us play from behind the whole time,” Rose said. “One of the real keys to our game at our place was we played from ahead, and that takes away their aggressiveness and their ability to trap you and force turnovers, especially live turnovers.”
BYU again got off to a poor start on the road. Scott scored the game’s first four points on a fast break layup after a steal and a lob dunk, foreshadowing what was to come.
TJ Haws hit a 3-pointer to give BYU an 11-6 lead and the Cougars had seemingly recovered from the abysmal start, but Batemon and Scott answered with nine quick points to give the Lions a lead they would not relinquish. Haws finished with seven points on 2-for-9 shooting.
“They are definitely a front-running team,” Childs said, agreeing with Cannon that Loyola Marymount’s confidence grew as the game went on. The Cougars committed 16 turnovers, which the Lions turned into a lot of easy baskets.
“That’s the main thing I saw tonight. They were more confident than us, and they had us on our heels,” Cannon said. “They were out to get us.”
Bryant left the game with 6:30 remaining in the first half after he was hit in the face by Loyola Marymount’s Mattias Markuson while making a layup. No foul was called on the play, and BYU fans in the crowd howled at the replay.
Rose said he took a hard swipe to the face, but determined he could play effectively in the second half.
Childs made a shot with 4:30 remaining in the half, but that was the last field goal for BYU before halftime, and the Lions led by as many as 12 points in the first 20 minutes before settling for a 42-31 lead at the break.
“You don’t have to be a brain surgeon to figure out when you watch [Loyola Marymount] play and you see all their games,” Rose said. “They cause people a lot of problems, because they play differently … You can’t turn the ball over, and allow them to get offensive rebounds. That’s what makes them good.”