No. 21 BYU's comeback falls short in 75-68 loss to No. 4 Houston

Despite a game-tying 3-pointer from Noah Waterman with two minutes remaining, No. 21 BYU men’s basketball was unable to retake the lead and fell 75-68 to No. 4 Houston on Tuesday night at the Marriott Center.


PROVO, Utah — Despite a game-tying 3-pointer from Noah Waterman with two minutes remaining, No. 21 BYU men’s basketball was unable to retake the lead and fell 75-68 to No. 4 Houston on Tuesday night at the Marriott Center.

"We put ourselves in a position where we had a chance and we just couldn't quite get over the top," said BYU head coach Mark Pope. "We have a great group of guys that battled but congratulations to Houston. They're the definition of toughness in college basketball."

After Houston shot a scorching 50 percent from the field in the first half, BYU rallied from down 13 in the second half as it held the visiting Cougars to 31 percent from the field.

"It's easy for teams to fall apart in those situations but we stayed together," said sophomore point guard Dallin Hall. "I feel like that will be super important for us going forward."

Houston’s rebounding, free-throw shooting and points off turnovers proved the difference-makers. BYU’s 13 turnovers were converted into 17 Houston points while the visitors outrebounded BYU 41-34 and score 15 second-chance points. 

BYU shot 7-of-10 from the free throw line but was unable to match Houston’s 17 makes on 24 attempts.

Waterman led BYU with 17 points on 6-of-9 shooting, including 4-of-7 from beyond the arc. Jaxson Robinson put up 10 points along with four assists. Aly Khalifa had three assists alongside eight points and five rebounds. Trevin Knell scored eight points and reeled-in six rebounds.

Hall scored six points while recording four rebounds and four assists. Hall checked back into the game with 13 minutes to play and four fouls, yet managed to conduct the BYU offense’s near-comeback without another whistle.

"This game showed us that we have even more room to grow, which is exciting, Hall said. "It's super frustrating to deal with all the emotions that all the guys are feeling in the locker room right now, but hopefully, we can clear that out, come back tomorrow, be ready to work and understand the opporutnity that lies ahead of us."

First Half
BYU and Houston traded punches in a first half that saw four ties and seven lead changes with the host Cougars leading or 8:42 while Houston did so for 8:32.

Khalifa shouldered the BYU offense in the early going with two 3-pointers that tied the game at six. Robinson scored BYU’s third field goal, another triple, to put his team up 9-6. BYU continued to lead by three at 11-8 with Atiki Ally Atiki slapping an errant shot out to Saunders who scored the putback.

Houston responded with a 10-2 run bolstered by an early 9-4 advantage on the glass.

BYU fought back with a 12-5 run to lead 25-20 with 9:10 to play until half. Hall sparked the BYU run with a strong driving lay-in through contact. Robinson then knotted the game at 18 with a deep 3-pointer and Hall whipped a pass to Johnson who nailed a top of the key triple and put BYU up 21-20.

Points in the paint continued to be key for BYU as Hall and Saunders powered to the rim and scored on consecutive possessions on the way to the 25-20 lead.

Houston briefly retook the lead at 26-25 before Waterman scored back-to-back BYU buckets. The forward scored off the glass on an inbound pass from Robinson then drained a 3-pointer from the right wing to put BYU back in front 30-26.

Two more scores from Hall and Khalifa kept BYU in striking distance but a 6-0 Houston run sent the teams to the break with the visitors leading 41-34.

Houston narrowly outshot BYU 50-48 percent from the field in the first half. Both teams knocked down six 3-pointers and BYU outscored Houston 16-14 in the paint. BYU’s 14 first-half field goals came on nine assists.

Rebounding, points off turnovers and second-chance points made the difference for Houston. The Cougars in red outrebounded BYU 19-14, scored eight second-chance points to BYU’s two and posted nine points on six BYU turnovers.  

Second Half
Houston extended its lead to 12 early in the second half before BYU responded with 3-point plays on three straight possessions. Waterman and Knell each scored from beyond the arc and Knell added three more from the free-throw line as BYU cut Houston’s lead to 46-43 at the half’s 16:08 mark.

Stingy BYU defense helped narrow the gap as well, with Houston going scoreless from the field over a three-minute stretch.

Houston’s scoring drought ended abruptly as the visitors responded with a 13-3 run to go up 59-46 with 11:15 to play.

Waterman put BYU back on the board with a personal 6-0 run. The senior from Savannah, New York nailed a 3-pointer then did it the old-fashioned way on consecutive possessions, trimming the BYU deficit to 59-52 at the 9:25 mark of play.

An offensive foul on Houston helped BYU continue its run with Knell scoring a floater in the middle of the lane moments later to bring BYU within five.

A crowd-rousing transition reverse lay-in from Robinson put BYU down just a possession at 61-58 with 7:33 to go. Houston responded with a 3-pointer but Robinson returned fire with a mid-range jumper to keep BYU within four.

Fousseyni Traore made his game debut in the closing eight minutes and scored seven points down the stretch as BYU remained hot on Houston’s tail.

BYU weathered a three-minute drought from the field to square the game at 68 on a transition triple from Waterman. Despite the tied game with two minutes remaining, BYU went scoreless while Houston converted seven free throws to win 75-68. 

BYU continues its week at home with a Saturday matinee versus Texas on Jan. 27. The Cougars and Longhorns will tip off from the Marriott Center at Noon MT on ESPN2. Tune-in to live play-by-play on BYU Radio Sirius XM 143, Radio app or KSL 102.7 FM/1160 AM.

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