Moraga, Calif. • As if the first West Coast Conference road game of the season — in a place the Cougars have failed to win in since 2014 — wasn’t daunting enough, BYU had to do it without its leading scorer.
But even with the hostile environment in Saint Mary’s University Credit Union Pavilion and Yoeli Childs’ absence from the court, BYU kept the game close, and sent the game to overtime with TJ Haws’ game-tying dunk and a key block from Dalton Nixon to prevent the Gaels from scoring at the last second.
However, BYU was unable to close out the game and fell to Saint Mary's, 87-84, Thursday night.
“That one hurts,” Haws said. “We battled all night, but just came up short. A lot to learn from this game, but I'm proud of the way our guys fought and battled to the end – just came up short tonight.”
The loss snapped the Cougars’ six-game winning streak and dropped BYU to 12-5 overall and 1-1 in WCC play.
It was also the Cougars’ third overtime loss this season (along with losses to Boise State and Utah), and all three were played without Childs.
Childs left practice early on Tuesday after banging up his right index finger. Right before the game, it was announced that Childs would be out with an open dislocation.
It certainly wasn’t the first time the Cougars have had to adjust their lineup without Childs, but his absence was felt more in Moraga than at the start of the season. Since finishing his suspension, Childs has averaged a double-double (20.9 ppg, 10.1 rpg).
“It’s not new, we expect to be able to win with the team we have – that’s our job,” BYU coach Mark Pope said. “And we don’t have any time to think about anything else. The guys we have that can play on the court is what we’re supposed to win with. … We just fell a little bit short tonight. It’s not because our guys didn’t fight and it’s not because they didn’t perform. It’s just because we fell a little bit short against a really good team.”
Those were some big statistical shoes to fill. But Jake Toolson and Haws were up for the task. The seniors scored 24 and 29 points, respectively. But it still wasn’t enough.
Both teams were slow to start, but BYU seemed to always be a step or two behind Saint Mary's.
The Cougars opened the game with 1 of 5 shooting.
Midway through the first half, BYU started getting more competitive at the glass — and that’s when things started clicking, even if momentarily.
After Kolby Lee nailed the Cougars’ first 3-pointer to tie the game 15-all, Toolson drove in for a reverse layup to give BYU its first lead of the game. But it didn’t last long.
Shortly after, the Gaels put together a small 6-0 run to regain the lead, which they kept throughout the remainder of the first half.
Haws had an impressive over-the-shoulder pass from inside the paint out to Nixon, who drove in for a layup and drew an and-1 to tie the game once more with 18 seconds left in the first half, but Jordan Ford nailed a last-second 3-pointer to keep the Gaels’ lead intact going into halftime, 37-34.
The Cougars came out a little more refined at the start of the second half, but continued to play catch-up the remainder of the game. And shortly after halftime, they started struggling at the glass once more.
The Gaels took their largest lead of the night, 71-62, after Ford nailed a 3-pointer.
Saint Mary’s still led by six with 50 seconds left in regulation, but was outscored 8-2 at the end of the second half.
“It's who this team is,” Haws said of the way the Cougars were able to fight back. “We've been doing that all year. We believe in what we do on the defensive end and shots are going to fall for us, and I thought we just battled defensively all night.”
However, in overtime, the shots didn’t fall enough, especially toward the end.
The Cougars shot 30%, making only three shots (one a 3-pointer). Saint Mary’s only made one field goal during the extra time, but was sent to the line enough to make eight of 10 free throw attempts.
The Gaels were careful to not give BYU any free points and didn't commit a single foul during overtime.
“Some things didn’t go our way, but I’m proud of the way we battled and fought through it,” Toolson said. “We’re trying to get better every day. I feel like we kind of took some steps. So, kind of put this one behind us and get ready for Saturday.”