A Heartbreaker Ends Winning Streak

Senior Jake Shoff goes up for two of his six points Friday in the Pepsi Center. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)

DENVER -- The Mountain West Conference Tournament ended for the No. 2-seeded BYU men's basketball team on Friday, with a heartbreaking 54-51 loss to the No. 3-seeded University of Utah at the Pepsi Center in Denver.

The loss snapped the Cougars' nine-game winning streak that had pushed their overall record to 21-8 and 10-4 in the MWC. It also means the Cougars will not receive the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and must await a decision from the NCAA Selection Committee.

"It's hard to know what the committee is thinking, I know that our credentials are solid in every area," said head coach Steve Cleveland. "If you compare our criteria with other teams in the West, we are right at the top. This team has done everything it can do to get a berth."

Some of what the Cougars have done is go 9-1 in their last 10 games -- one of the biggest criteria for the committee. The team improved its RPI ranking to a conference best No. 27 and went from last place in conference to finishing second in the regular season.

"In my 27 years of coaching I have never seen a team as focused as this one, to come from last to second and win nine games in a row," said Cleveland.

On the night, BYU shot 46.7 percent on 21-of-45 shooting with senior Rafael Araujo scoring a team-high 13 points and pulling down eight rebounds. Both junior Mike Hall and senior Luiz Lemes contributed nine points for BYU to round out the top three Cougars scorers.

The Cougars put up 20 points in the first half. It was their second-lowest point total in a half on the season after a 19-point performance at the Air Force Academy back on Jan. 24.

"It wasn't our best offensive game but we found our offense in the second half," said Cleveland. "We found the flow (in the second half) and put ourselves in a position to win but it came down to the end and we lost," said Cleveland.

"We could never find our rhythm," said senior guard Mark Bigelow, "We weren't aggressive and nobody could hit a shot. If you score 20 points in the first half you are going to be in trouble in any game."

Cleveland added, "We've won games in the last few seconds but tonight it didn't happen. We've had the ball bounce our way many times in the last six week -- just not tonight."

The first half turned into a defensive battle with both teams struggling from the field. BYU went a combined 8-for-23 for 20 points while Utah was 9-of-26 for 26 points over the first 20 minutes.

Utah struck first in the half, connecting on back-to-back threes before Hall knocked down a trey of his own at the 17:17 mark.

The Cougars' Woodberry tied up the ball game at 12 apiece with a three point shot of his own but the tie didn't last long as the Utes went on a 7-2 run over the next six minutes to pull ahead 19-14 with 4:21 to go before the break.

With 2:32 left in the half, Araujo was fouled by the Utes' Andrew Bogut but a questionable elbow to Bogut's head landed Araujo his first foul of the game in the form of a technical.

Utah's Nick Jacobson made good on one of his two technical free throws to make it a 20-16 game.

In the final minute of the half it was senior Jake Shoff that brought BYU to within six at 26-20 going into the break by connecting on two free throws and a tip-in with two seconds to go.

Coming out of the break, the Utes pushed their lead to 10 at 39-29, their largest lead of the game.

But BYU didn't lay down and the Cougars came roaring back with a 10-2 run, capped by a break-away layup by Hall at the 6:27 mark to tie up the game at 43 all.

The Cougars kept a hold of the Utes through the remainder of regulation, allowing the Utes to get up by no more than four points the rest of the way.

With time winding down and BYU trailing 52-48, Araujo stepped up and knocked down a three-pointer from the left side with 39 seconds to play, bringing the Cougars to within one at 52-51.

But with 7.7 seconds on the clock and four seconds on the shot clock, Cougar guard Kevin Woodberry was called for a foul. The foul reset the shot clock and Araujo picked up his fifth foul trying to stop the clock on the inbound play.

The Utes went on to win the barnburner 54-51 as Hall's last-second three-point attempt just fell short of the hole and bounced off the front of the rim as time ran out.

BYU will now wait to hear from the NCAA Selection Committee as to whether it will be invited to the NCAA Tournament.

Official Basketball Box Score -- GAME TOTALS -- FINAL STATISTICS

Utah vs Brigham Young

03-12-04 7:00 p.m. at Denver, Colo. (Pepsi Center)

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VISITORS: Utah 23-8 (9-5 MWC)

TOT-FG 3-PT REBOUNDS

## Player Name FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN

04 BOGUT, Andrew....... f 4-8 1-2 0-0 1 5 6 2 9 5 2 0 0 35

13 CHANEY, Richard..... f 3-6 0-1 0-0 2 0 2 1 6 1 1 3 1 28

54 FROST, Tim.......... c 3-7 1-1 3-4 2 4 6 3 10 2 2 0 0 29

11 DRISDOM, Tim........ g 0-4 0-0 0-0 0 3 3 0 0 7 0 0 2 35

15 JACOBSON, Nick...... g 7-18 4-11 1-2 0 7 7 2 19 0 1 0 0 37

02 OLSEN, Josh......... 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 5

05 HAWKINS, Justin..... 3-4 0-1 2-2 2 2 4 1 8 2 1 1 0 25

20 MARKSON, Bryant..... 1-3 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 2 2 0 1 0 0 6

TEAM................ 1 1

Totals.............. 21-50 6-16 6-8 8 21 29 13 54 17 8 4 3 200

TOTAL FG% 1st Half: 9-26 34.6% 2nd Half: 12-24 50.0% Game: 42.0% DEADB

3-Pt. FG% 1st Half: 4-10 40.0% 2nd Half: 2-6 33.3% Game: 37.5% REBS

F Throw % 1st Half: 4-6 66.7% 2nd Half: 2-2 100 % Game: 75.0% 1

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HOME TEAM: Brigham Young 21-8 (10-4 MW)

TOT-FG 3-PT REBOUNDS

## Player Name FG-FGA FG-FGA FT-FTA OF DE TOT PF TP A TO BLK S MIN

03 BIGELOW, Mark....... f 2-8 0-1 0-0 0 4 4 0 4 2 2 1 1 31

41 MEADS, Garner....... f 0-0 0-0 0-0 0 1 1 1 0 0 2 2 1 9

55 ARAUJO, Rafael...... c 6-10 1-1 0-0 0 8 8 5 13 0 1 0 0 34

01 HALL, Mike.......... g 3-9 1-1 2-5 0 3 3 1 9 1 1 0 0 37

04 LEMES, Luiz......... g 4-10 1-2 0-0 0 2 2 2 9 2 2 0 2 33

00 WOODBERRY, Kevin.... 1-2 1-2 0-0 0 3 3 3 3 6 1 0 0 21

02 ROSE, Mike.......... 1-1 1-1 0-0 0 1 1 0 3 0 0 0 0 5

05 SHOFF, Jake......... 2-2 0-0 2-2 1 0 1 2 6 0 0 0 1 19

10 NASHIF, Terry....... 0-1 0-0 0-0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2

52 JENSEN, Jared....... 2-2 0-0 0-0 2 0 2 0 4 1 0 1 0 9

TEAM................ 2 2 1

Totals.............. 21-45 5-8 4-7 5 22 27 14 51 12 10 4 5 200

TOTAL FG% 1st Half: 8-23 34.8% 2nd Half: 13-22 59.1% Game: 46.7% DEADB

3-Pt. FG% 1st Half: 2-4 50.0% 2nd Half: 3-4 75.0% Game: 62.5% REBS

F Throw % 1st Half: 2-2 100 % 2nd Half: 2-5 40.0% Game: 57.1% 1

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Officials: David Hall, Randy McCall, Larry Spaulding

Technical fouls: Utah-None. Brigham Young-ARAUJO, Rafael.

Attendance: 9653

Score by Periods 1st 2nd Total

Utah.......................... 26 28 - 54

Brigham Young................. 20 31 - 51

ID-254236

Mountain West Conference Tournament Semifinal Game

Technical Foul on Araujo of BYU at 1st/2:32.

Points in the paint-UT 26,BY 16. Points off turnovers-UT 23,BY 8.

2nd chance points-UT 6,BY 8. Fast break points-UT 3,BY 5.

Bench points-UT 10,BY 16. Score tied-3 times. Lead changes-2 times.

Tags: Results