It wasn’t difficult for BYU basketball coach Dave Rose to figure out where the Cougars lost their second-straight game on Wednesday night: at the free-throw line.
Illinois State missed just one free throw, going 17 of 18 from the line, while the Cougars missed 11 free throws on 36 attempts.
The Redbirds took a 92-89 win in overtime at Redbird Arena in Normal, Ill., dropping BYU’s record to 5-3. ISU improved to 6-2 and got some revenge for BYU’s blowout win in Provo last year.
“It was a game that was right there for us to win, and we should have got it,” Rose told the BYU radio network.
Just as their football team did four nights ago, the Cougars blew a big second-half lead. BYU was up 52-38 when Yoeli Childs hit a 3-pointer with just over 16 minutes remaining, then slowly saw the lead slip away. Rose said the Cougars had some defensive lapses, struggled against ISU’s zone, and grew impatient on offense to lose the big lead.
Childs finished with 27 points and 16 rebounds, his sixth double-double of the season, while TJ Haws added 22 points, eight rebounds and six assists. Haws scored his 1,000th point as a Cougar in the first half, and the Cougars led 40-31 at the break.
“We played our butts off. That’s why it hurts so bad,” Childs said. “It just comes down to hitting shots. We did the little things to fight back. We just missed shots.”
Zac Seljaas and Jahshire Hardnett added nine points apiece and Gavin Baxter chipped in a career-high eight points.
“We need to be more crisp on offense,” Rose said. “We need to be more diverse. We can’t be a two- man or three-man offensive team, especially in games on the road where a lot of crazy things happen at times.”
Illinois State jumped out to an 85-79 lead in overtime when Zach Copeland hit a 3-pointer and the home team withstood a BYU rally in the final minutes. The Redbirds were 13 of 30 from 3-point range, while BYU was 6 of 28 from deep.
“We still held a team to under 40 percent on their home floor,” Rose said. “We should come in and win that game. That’s the bottom line.”
BYU was within a point when Haws sank a couple free throws, but Tinsley made ISU’s 13th 3-pointer with 2:20 left. BYU took an 89-88 lead with a minute left after a Childs free throw, but he missed the second attempt.
Dalton Nixon missed a 3-pointer with 18 seconds left in overtime and the Cougars trailing by a point, and ISU’s Josh Jefferson put it away with a pair of free throws with five seconds later. The Redbirds entered the game shooting 64 percent from the free-throw line.
The Cougars had two chances in the final 10 seconds to tie it, but Haws and Hardnett missed 3-pointers.
“They are way more successful outside the game, when the lights aren’t on,” Rose said.
The Redbirds got their first lead of the second half with 4:33 left when Josh Jefferson made a layup.
Hardnett missed a free throw with 24 seconds remaining, and Copeland’s two freebies with two seconds remaining tied it at 78 and sent the game into overtime.
The Cougars play at Weber State on Saturday night.
“Now we are in a tough spot,” Rose said. “Our guys are down. They are looking for answers, and where it is going to come from. We need some guys to step up. We need guys to find their confidence and find a way to get this next game.”