‘Miscommunication’ on the court and ‘poor job’ at coaching results in 76-73 road loss for BYU basketball

The Waves snap BYU’s four-game winning streak and beat the Cougars for the first time since Feb. 2017

BYU head coach Mark Pope talks to his team in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Southern California, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, in Uncasville, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

When the Cougars get back to Provo from Malibu, big man Kolby Lee won’t be going home. Instead, the junior will head straight to the gym to shoot and start moving on from the rare West Coast Conference loss.

Pepperdine (7-7; 3-2 WCC) split the series with a 76-73 home win over BYU (13-4; 4-2 WCC) on Wednesday. Although the loss didn’t have a huge impact on the Cougars’ place in the league standings, it definitely left a bad taste in everyone’s mouths.

“We’re going to do what we do every single day, which is get better,” Lee said about how the team will move on from the loss. “This one stings, for sure. This one hurts. We’ll probably think about it on the flight home and then, me personally, I’m going to be in the gym tonight. That’s how we have to respond, just get better every day.”

Originally, BYU was set to play at Pepperdine on Dec. 31. The Cougars were 30 minutes into their flight out from Provo to Southern California when the game was postponed due to COVID-19 issues within the Waves’ program. That led to Wednesday’s matinee matchup, a mere five days after the Cougars hosted Pepperdine at the Marriott Center.

At first, BYU coach Mark Pope believed a Wednesday game would be best for his team — it would allow two days of prep work for the second Pepperdine game and two days of prep work for the Cougars’ next game. But things didn’t go as planned.

BYU was set to host San Francisco on Saturday, but due to positive cases from COVID-19 testing and related contact tracing, all San Francisco team-related activities have been postponed, including upcoming games.

BYU’s game against Pacific, originally scheduled for Feb. 8, has been moved up to Saturday (4 p.m., CBSSN) at the Marriott Center.

In what has become common over the last two seasons, Pope placed blame on Wednesday’s loss on himself. The second-year head coach said he did a “disgusting job” coaching his team.

“I did a poor job tonight, so that’s the end result,” Pope said.

Just like Saturday’s game, the Cougars set the pace, but, after leading for the majority of the game, this time fell victim to Pepperdine’s runs. Five days ago, BYU prevented the Waves from scoring in the final 10 minutes of the game.

This time, after the Cougars had their largest lead of the game (11 points) early in the second half, the Waves responded with a 16-4 run over the next four minutes. The second half saw 10 ties and nine lead changes.

What also greatly hindered BYU was the amount of uncharacteristic turnovers. The Cougars gave up 13 turnovers — nine of which were forced by the Waves. Pepperdine, which committed eight turnovers itself, scored 11 points off turnovers.

Lee said the Cougars, from the start, weren’t tough with the ball and had careless turnovers.

“There were a lot of times where we threw it in the corner and the guard wasn’t there,” Lee said. “... Just miscommunications, and it’s stupid on our part. A lot of times, we weren’t making the right pass, or they were double teaming and we weren’t making the simple play that we do every game.”

Of the four BYU players that scored in double-digit points, three were reserves. Spencer Johnson scored a team-high 15 points, Caleb Lohner added 13 points and Richard Harward finished with 10 points. The only BYU starter to score in the double digits was Alex Barcello with 12 points.