LAS VEGAS — No. 1 seed BYU stumbled to a surprisingly competitive 64-58 quarterfinal win over No. 9 TCU Thursday in the Thomas & Mack Center, exposing some flash points for BYU coach Dave Rose to be concerned about heading into Friday's semifinal against the winner of Colorado State and New Mexico.
BYU missed shots, turned the ball over, got sloppy with passes, gave up easy shots and watched a team that struggled all MWC season make shots and convert from all over the court for most of the game.
Classic motivated squad vs. one that was not.
The Cougars needed 24 points from All-American Jimmer Fredette and a blocked TCU shot from Jackson Emery with five seconds left to cement the game away. Charles Abouo, who earned the game ball with key rebounds and 14 points, proved stalwart all game long.
The Cougars had little inside game. BYU's patented 3-point arsenal was labored. Emery finished 3 of 13 and Fredette 7 of 21 and didn't score for 13 minutes of the second half.
BYU improved to 29-3 on the season, but it wasn't what the committed would call an inspiring outing. TCU outshot the Cougars 44 to 42 percent from the field and 47 to 26 percent from distance.
That will not get it done for BYU in March.
The Frogs picked up where they left off in defeating Wyoming — hard work and accurate shooting. While the first is a trait TCU has shown all season, they ran through the MWC circuit with a reputation of not shooting all that well.
In the first half, TCU knocked down 7 of 12 shots from distance, a feat the Cougars couldn't match. BYU went 4 of 13 from distance during the first 20 minutes and got outshot 50 to 48 percent to trail TCU 34-33 at the break.
The first half, linked to BYU's first half against Wyoming and the last loss at New Mexico, underscores BYU's dependence on its outside game. Without a scoring presence inside, the Cougars are going to live or die on the 3-point shot in the postseason.
Knowing the Frogs had played Wyoming Wednesday, Rose tried to make TCU play through the shot clock on defense. TCU's strategy was to run clock anyway, so both teams were limiting possessions. While that may have worked in the long run, it forced the Cougars into a half-court offense and they didn't fare that well against the league's No. 9 seed.
Abouo was BYU's most consistent shooter on a team that needs every point it can get. The junior finished 6 of 8 from the field. His misses were a trey and offensive rebound put-back late in the game. He was 5 for 5 before that.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org