BYU grinds out 82-77 overtime victory over Pepperdine in WCC semifinal
LAS VEGAS — BYU men’s basketball (20-5, 10-3 WCC) outlasted Pepperdine (12-12, 7-7 WCC), 82-77, in overtime, despite trailing for more than 36 minutes of the game, Monday night at the Orleans Arena. The Cougars advance to the WCC Tournament championship for the fourth time and will take on the top-ranked Gonzaga Bulldogs Tuesday night.
“How fun is postseason basketball,” said BYU head coach Mark Pope. “We have a phrase to 'turn frustration into fight.' We talk about it all the time. I was so proud of our guys. It is very rare that you can win this game with 21 turnovers. We did a poor job at caring for the ball. Our decision making was off, our timing of when to make aggressive plays was off, and credit Pepperdine for great defensive intensity. But the fact that these guys won this game with 21 turnovers is extraordinary, because you just don't win in the postseason that way. It's a tribute to their togetherness and their toughness, their resilience and their ability to take all that frustration and, somehow, magically absorb it and keep fighting. I couldn't be more proud of these guys.”
Senior guard Alex Barcello led the Cougars with 23 points, going 6-of-13 from the field and hitting 3-of-5 from three. Barcello also led the team in rebounds with nine and dished out two assists. Matt Haarms scored 18 points including 8-of-8 from the free throw line, while pulling down seven rebounds, dishing out two assists and huge block. Brandon Averette finished the night with 16 points and a team-high five assists before fouling out late in the second half.
BYU shot 43 percent from the field but had a season-high 21 turnovers. The Waves capitalized on the Cougars’ mistakes by scoring 26 points off turnovers. BYU was able to hold Pepperdine’s leading scorer Colbey Ross to 7-of -24 shooting and 22 percent below his average shooting percentage on the season. Ross also tied a season-high with seven turnovers.
The Cougars had a slow start to their first game in nine days. BYU was held to five points in the first 4:25 of the game on just 2-of-9 shooting. On the other side of the floor, Pepperdine started hot, connecting on seven of its first 10 shots. Ross and Kessler Edwards led the Waves’ start, combining for 4-of-5 from the field. The Waves were leading by seven at 16-9 with 12:54 to go in the half when Ross and Trevin Knell got mixed up in a loose ball. Pepperdine hit back-to-back threes to go up 23-11, but BYU answered with a run of its own, outscoring the Waves 9-2 the next 6:08. With 35 seconds to go in the half, Barcello hit his second three of the game as a foul was called against the Waves under the basket. The Cougars got the bucket and the ball, and Richard Harward tied the game up at 35 with a quick release under the hoop on the ensuing possession. BYU entered the break on a 13-4 run in the final 3:12. BYU never led in the first half, trailing for 19:19.
A Haarms dunk started the second half and gave the Cougars their first lead of the game, 37-35. Pepperdine answered with an 8-0 run the next 2:16 before Barcello sank two free throws for his eighth and ninth points of the game. The whistle disrupted much of the flow to start the second half, for both teams, as a combined twelve fouls were called in the first six minutes. After falling behind by nine, the Cougars put the clamps on defensively, holding the Waves without a field goal for five minutes.
BYU pulled within two, 62-60, but had its own four-minute drought without a made field goal. The Cougars forced a stop on defense, down two, with just over a minute to go. Averette drove to the hoop and drew a hard foul and hit one of two from the line. Pepperdine fired up a three early in the shot clock and BYU pulled down its 39th board of the game. Barcello attacked the basket out of a timeout and finished with a tough reverse layup to put the Cougars up 71-70 with 16 seconds left. Haarms blocked a rushed shot in the paint and BYU secured the defensive rebound with five seconds remaining. Spencer Johnson made 1-of-2 from the line to give BYU a two-point lead. Ross then took the inbounds pass with 5.8 seconds left, went the length of the court and made a contested leaner at the top of the key at the buzzer to send the game to overtime.
Barcello hit a jumper to open the overtime period and gave the Cougars a two-point lead. Edwards tied the game at 74 with a mid-range jumper, despite being heavily guarded by Johnson. The teams exchanged free throws and the Waves, again, found themselves down two with 29 seconds to go. Johnson deflected a Pepperdine pass in the corner and flipped the loose ball behind his back. That eventually led to two Barcello free throws and a four-point BYU lead, 80-76, with 14 seconds left. Another pair of Barcello free throws gave BYU its largest lead of the game at five with seven seconds remaining, and the Cougars hung on to win 82-77.
BYU outscored Pepperdine 10-5 in the overtime period, going a perfect 8-for-8 from the charity stripe. The Cougars also held the Waves to just 1-of-7 from the field in the extra time.
BYU will face No. 1 Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament championship Tuesday night at 6 p.m. PST in the Orleans Arena. The game will be televised on ESPN and broadcast on the BYU Sports Networks on BYU Radio – Sirius XM 143/89.1 FM HD2 and KSL 102.7 FM/1160 AM.