BYU had no answer for the inside play of Saint Mary’s as the Cougars fell 82-77 to the Gaels on Saturday night in Moraga, California. BYU got destroyed on the glass, giving up 17 offensive boards as the Gaels used their size and strength advantage to get plenty of second-chance opportunities.
Brad Waldow led the way for Saint Mary’s in the win with 24 points on 10 of 15 shooting to go along with 14 rebounds (seven on the offensive end), three assists and two blocks. Garrett Jackson and Emmett Naar also made huge contributions in the victory. Jackson finished with 20 points on 7 of 10 shooting with nine rebounds and a pair of steals while Naar had 10 points, seven assists and three rebounds. Kerry Carter didn’t have a great shooting night (3 for 12, including 1 for 8 from distance), but did make his presence felt on the defensive end with four big steals.
Tyler Haws paced the Cougars with 28 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals. Chase Fischer finished with 19 points and five rebounds while Skyler Halford added 12 second half points.
Why the Cougars lost
BYU is at its best when they move the ball around to get uncontested looks at the basket. The Cougars didn’t do that very well against the Gaels with just 11 assists on 25 made field goals.
The Gaels dominated on the glass with a 41-28 rebounding advantage, including a 17 to 7 edge on the offensive boards. As part of that, the BYU center rotation of Luke Worthington, Corbin Kaufusi, Isaac Neilson and Ryan Andrus combined for just two rebounds (both on the offensive end) in 40 minutes of action.
With 16:54 remaining in the second half and the Cougars trailing by five, Kyle Collinsworth picked up his fourth foul when he was bumped into the driving lane of Aaron Bright. While the Cougars did make a run later in the game, not having Collinsworth on the floor for large stretches of the second half hurt them with ball movement and on the glass.
What it means
The Cougars are now squarely on the bubble for the NCAA tournament with their third loss in nine West Coast Conference games. That leaves them very little room for error if they expect to make it to the dance this season.
It also showed how much the Cougars miss senior leaders Nate Austin and Anson Winder. Austin would have been a huge help on the glass and with interior defense while Winder would have given BYU another weapon on the perimeter on both ends of the floor.
Grading the performance
The BYU guard line put up big numbers (69 of the 77 points), but only Halford shot better than 50 percent from the floor and they combined for just nine assists.
The BYU big men shot 2 of 5 from the field and struggled on the defensive end. They finished with five points, six rebounds and three steals in 71 minutes on the floor.
With all of that, the Cougars were still down just one possession in the final seconds before the Cougars committed a late foul that allowed Bright to ice the game.
The Gaels took advantage of the BYU weaknesses to improve to 7-0 in WCC play. They got the ball in the post for easy baskets and attacked the offensive glass to get second chances.
They did struggle to shoot the ball from the outside (7 of 21 from 3-point range) and at the free-throw line (17 of 26), but found a way to pull out a hard-fought victory.
Three telling stats
The best way to counteract a good offensive big man is to make him work on the other end of the floor, but the BYU centers attempted just four shots in the loss.
When the BYU offense is running at its best it is because Collinsworth is creating opportunities for his teammates to get easy baskets, but he managed just three assists against the Gaels.
Garrett Jackson made all three of his 3-point attempts in the win over BYU. Entering the game, he had made just 7 of 19 attempts on the entire season.
The Cougars will try to rebound from the defeat with another road test against the San Diego Toreros next Saturday.
The Toreros are 9-11 on the season, including 2-6 in WCC play. They are in the middle of a three-game losing streak after falling to Pacific 59-57 on Saturday.
The back court of Johnny Dee and Christopher Anderson are the two players that the Cougars have to worry about most. Dee leads the team in scoring with 17.5 per game while Anderson runs the show. He is averaging a team-high 6.5 assists to go along with 8.7 points, 2.7 rebounds and two steals a night.