BYU falls 77-76 at Santa Clara


SANTA CLARA, Calif. – BYU fell to Santa Clara in a 77-76 decision at the Leavey Center on Thursday night after turnovers twisted a late Cougar lead into a last-second loss.

“This game got away from us in a lot of different ways,” said BYU head coach Mark Pope. “We had some miscommunication defensively when they hit that corner-3 and we didn’t manage our defense well on those last two possessions.”

In a game that saw 22 lead changes and a high-lead of four points for either team, the deciding plays were bound to come in the final moments.

The Cougars appeared to have made the necessary shots to escape Santa Clara with a win at the crafty hands of Te’Jon Lucas. The senior guard sliced through the defense to score two straight buckets, giving BYU a 74-70 lead with 1:15 remaining.

Santa Clara, however, would not go quietly. The Broncos assembled quick scoring possessions and took advantage of BYU errors as the Cougars struggled to cleanly complete in-bounds passing under pressure. Santa Clara’s final scoring surge combined with BYU’s ball-handling lapses culminated in a game-winning floater by the Broncos Jalen Williams as time expired.

Despite shooting 49 percent from the field and outrebounding Santa Clara 40-31, the Cougars’ 18 turnovers to 11 assists undercut any attempt to pull away from the Broncos.

Santa Clara shot 46 percent from the field with 14 assists to 11 turnovers and was led by Williams’ 26 points.

Alex Barcello led the Cougars with 20 points, including 4-of-8 from 3-point range to go along with four assists. Lucas came on strong in the second half with 12 points, tallying 17 for the game. Fousseyni Traore recorded 10 points and 15 rebounds, four of which came on the offensive glass. Thursday marked the freshman forward’s third consecutive double-double performance and fifth of the season.

Offense arrived early at the Leavey Center as both teams opened the game shooting 3-of-4 from the field with Barcello leading the charge for the Cougars.

Holes then opened in BYU’s transition defense, leading to easy buckets for the Broncos as Santa Clara snuck out to an early 11-8 lead.

Gideon George came off the bench to score 10 points in the first half as the Cougars battled back to tie and lead before the break. George both scored and assisted during his first half highlights. The senior forward showed off his passing as he drew the defense’s eyes and whipped a no-look pass to Traore who scored to put the Cougars up 22-20.

George and Barcello paced BYU’s scoring attack in the remainder of the half as the Cougars held a slight 39-37 edge as the teams headed for the locker room.

There was a total of 27 seconds in the first half in which either team led by more than one possession.

The second half continued much the same with Barcello, Lucas, Traore and George fueling BYU in a back-and-forth battle.

"We don’t have a lot of time to feel sorry for ourselves," said Pope. "That’s how it is on the road." We need to go over this film and figure out where we need to get better. We’ve got to get better."

BYU will look to flip the script as it continues its northern California road trip at Pacific on Saturday, Jan. 29 at 6:30 p.m. PST. Watch the Cougars battle the Tigers live on ESPNU or listen to the play-by-play call on BYU Radio or the BYU Sports Network/KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM