LAS VEGAS – No. 14/16 BYU men's basketball was defeated 51-50 by Saint Mary's in the semifinals of the West Coast Conference Tournament Monday night at Orleans Arena.
"There are a thousand things that I wish I could take back and do different," BYU head coach Mark Pope said. "Credit to Saint Mary’s. The last 12 to 13 minutes of that game they got incredibly physical with us and we did not respond accordingly. I wasn’t able to get our team in the right frame of mind and we know how to compete against that physicality."
"I'm proud of our guys. I'm excited about the future, the weeks ahead of us. We'll go back home, get to work and get better every single day."
Yoeli Childs led the team with 23 points and 10 rebounds while Jake Toolson followed with 11 points, eight rebounds, one assist and one steal.
The Gaels (26-7, 11-5 WCC) scored the first points of the night, hitting from behind the arc for a 3-0 lead. A layup by Gavin Baxter put BYU (24-8, 13-3 WCC) on the board before back-to-back 3-pointers by TJ Haws and Toolson gave the Cougars a 10-5 advantage with under 14 minutes to play in the first half.
With under 10 minutes on the clock and a one-possession game, Toolson buried another trey and Childs two consecutive jumpers to extend the BYU lead to 19-10. However, Saint Mary’s responded with a 7-0 run of their own to bring it back to a two-point game with four minutes remaining in the half.
In the final minute of the first half, Childs scored a dunk and Haws finished at the rim as the Cougars took a 26-20 advantage into the locker room. The Cougars shot 50.0 percent from the field in the first half compared to the Gaels’ 28.6 percent.
Haws setup Alex Barcello for a 3-pointer on BYU’s opening possession of the second half and then a layup by Childs gave the Cougars a double-digit lead, 31-20. A Childs trey put BYU on top by eight before a pair of free-throws and a layup by Saint Mary’s brought the score to 36-32 with 13 minutes remaining in the game.
Toolson and Childs combined for three-straight points from the charity stripe but the Gaels’ answered with a 12-0 run to take a 46-42 lead with 6:28 on the clock. Childs ended the run, scoring three-straight from the free-throw line to bring the Cougars within one.
After BYU went without a field goal for over nine minutes, Zac Seljaas converted on a 3-point play to give the lead back to the Cougars, 48-46, with 3:31 remaining in the game.
Going into the final minute of play BYU was on top by one point but with 1.4 seconds remaining, Jordan Ford hit a jumper to give the lead back to Saint Mary’s and the Cougars were unable to answer as the Gaels advanced to the championship game.
On the game, the Cougars shot 36.2 percent from the field, 38.9 percent from 3 and 60.0 percent from the charity stripe. Saint Mary's recorded 36.5 percent from the field, 22.2 percent from beyond the arc and 75.0 percent from the free-throw line.
Selection Sunday for the 2020 NCAA Tournament will be televised live on Sunday, March 15, at 6 p.m. EDT.
Yoeli Childs finished with 23 points and 10 rebounds, his fourth-straight double-double, eighth of the season and 45th of his career. It also marked his 12th game this season and 45th of his career with 20-plus points.
Jake Toolson his three 3-pointers, his third-straight and 15th game overall with three-plus 3s.
BYU forward Yoeli Childs
On how the layoff impacted the team’s performance
“I don’t think they really impacted our performance. I think we weren’t prepared for the nature of the game today. Saint Mary’s was tougher than us and they were more physical than us. Moving forward we will play with more force and we will be more aggressive. We will be prepared to move through that contact to get to our spots and play the right way.”
BYU head coach Mark Pope
“Jordan Ford is a great player and there’s no doubt about that. He’s a proven winner. There are a thousand things that I wish I could take back and do different. I should have made a personnel change that I didn’t. I was hesitant to do it and we probably should have fired on him a little bit earlier and we didn’t. That just goes with a myriad of things we wish we could take back throughout the course of the game and down the stretch. Credit to Saint Mary’s. The last 12 to 13 minutes of that game they got incredibly physical with us and we did not respond accordingly. I wasn’t able to get our team in the right frame of mind and we know how to compete against that physicality so it’s incredibly disappointing.”
On responding to this game
“They’ve wrung the bell every time this year. Last time we suffered a loss we ran off nine-straight. I trust this group and I think it’s a player-led group. I think we have unbelievable leadership and we don’t have any choice but to do that now. It’s incredibly disappointing and it’s going to actually hurt more in an hour or two and then it’s going to hurt way more tomorrow. Then we’ve got to pick ourselves up and jump into this thing. These guys have worked really hard this year and they’ve had a spectacular year so far. They’ve earned themselves the opportunity to play in this tournament and none of them are going to take it lightly. We’ve been good at writing the story. The story that we have to write is that this devastating loss and poor coaching performance and not the best performance we’ve had on the court and that will springboard us to doing something special that these guys have been dreaming their whole lives of doing so that’s the story we have to write. It’s the only story left for us, so we have to write it.”