LAS VEGAS — BYU men’s basketball fell to Valparaiso in a 92-89 championship loss at the Men Who Speak Up Main Event at the MGM Grand Garden Arena Wednesday night.
“It’s an experienced group of us playing together. We played too many minutes tonight where we weren’t ourselves,” BYU head coach Dave Rose said. “Hopefully we can learn from this game. There were a lot of possessions where we were our own worst enemy.”
Sophomore Nick Emery led the Cougars with 18 points, followed by freshman TJ Haws’ 15 and Eric Mika's 13. Junior Davin Guinn added 11 points off the bench, including 3 of 3 shooting from beyond the arc. Senior Kyle Davis and sophomore Elijah Bryant scored nine and seven points, respectively.
In a game of seven ties and five lead changes, both teams shot within half a percent of each other on the night. Valparaiso out-rebounded the Cougars 42-33.
The Cougars started out the game scoring their first 12 points on four-straight 3-pointers, a pair from both Emery and Haws. Their contributions ignited the team as BYU built a 12-point lead midway through the first half, 21-9.
Valparaiso battled back within four, going on a 7-0 run, closing the gap to 29-25 with 7:53 left in the half. The Cougars responded with a 9-5 run of its own, going up 38-30 with 4:15 left in the half.
Early foul trouble put big men Mika, Yoeli Childs and Davis on the bench, forcing the team to make some adjustments. BYU held its own, despite the Crusaders coming within three points twice. Valparaiso swung the momentum in its favor, tying it with 25 seconds on the clock, 44-44.
A perfect trip to the charity stripe from Braiden Shaw with 0.6 seconds in the half gave the Cougars a two-point lead heading into the break, 46-44.
The Crusaders took their first lead of the game momentarily on three free throws, 49-48, before BYU took it back for one possession on a Mika jumper.
Valparaiso then built a six-point lead, 56-50, after trailing for the first 23 minutes of the game.
Back-to-back 3-pointers from Guinn and a Davis jumper tied the game for the Cougars with 13:36 on the clock, 58-58. The teams traded free throws with Valparaiso pulling away before Bryant tied it again moments later, 60-60.
BYU whittled Valparaiso’s lead down to two, 69-67, on two free throws from Mika with 9:37 left.
Just as shooting from beyond the arc gave the Cougars a lead at the beginning of the first half, it brought BYU back in the game with four minutes left. Two Mika free throws and consecutive 3-pointers from Haws and Emery propelled the Cougars on an 8-0 run to even the score 82-82.
BYU took its final lead of the night with 3:01 left on Guinn’s third 3-pointer, 85-83, before Valparaiso tied it and recovered the lead for good. With under two minutes to go, Emery made 2 of 3 free throws, bringing the Cougars within one, 88-87. The Crusaders pulled away with a final score of 92-89 and the tournament championship win.
Not only did Valparaiso beat BYU in this tournament, but they also ended the Cougars’ postseason play last season with a two-point 72-70 win in the National Invitational Tournament.
The Cougars return home to host Utah Valley in the UCCU Cross Town Clash Saturday, Nov. 26, at 4 p.m. MST. The game will be broadcast online on TheW.tv, as well as on Cougar IMG Sports Network, KSL 102.7 FM/1160 AM and BYU Radio.