LAS VEGAS — BYU won't get another shot at No. 2 seed Saint Mary's after all.
No. 6 seed San Diego bounced the third-seeded Cougars from the West Coast Conference tournament in Friday night's quarterfinals, 72-69, at the Orleans Arena.
"It was a heckuva win for us," said USD coach Bill Grier. "We dug in and made plays down the stretch."
"We competed hard," said BYU coach Dave Rose. "We didn't play as well as we're capable of, but that was due to San Diego's defensive pressure. We got the lead a couple of times, but we couldn't sustain it. USD just seemed to have an answer. We fell a little bit short."
The loss prevented BYU from playing a much-anticipated rematch with the Gaels, who narrowly defeated the Cougars twice during the regular season.
Instead, the Toreros will take on Saint Mary's Saturday in the semifinals.
The next game for BYU (21-11) is expected to be in the National Invitation Tournament.
For now, though, the Cougars can only lament another disappointing WCC defeat. BYU fell twice to San Diego (16-17) this season.
"Once we beat BYU at our place, it helped us believe that we could beat them again," said Torero guard Chris Anderson, who scored 16 points.
Brandon Davies and Tyler Haws each scored 20 points for the Cougars, but it wasn't enough to overcome San Diego. USD guard Johnny Dee poured in a game-high 25 points, including three timely 3-pointers.
Dee hit a 3-pointer from the corner with 2:36 left, then had an and-one seconds later that helped keep the Cougars at bay. He also hit crucial free throws in the closing seconds.
With less than one minute remaining, Haws stole a USD pass, but turned the ball over. A foul during that sequence put Anderson at the free-throw line. Anderson knocked down both shots to put the Toreros up 67-62 with 41.5 seconds left.
With USD up 70-66, Matt Carlino buried a 3-pointer with 6.9 seconds on the clock to cut the deficit to 70-69, but Dee nailed two more free throws. Carlino's deep, potential game-tying 3-pointer rimmed out at the buzzer.
BYU battled back from an 11-point first-half deficit to take a narrow lead in the second half, but couldn't finish against San Diego.
"Defensively, we were way more aggressive in the second half. That got us some baskets in transition. That gave us some energy," Rose said. "When it came down to big possessions, where we were up by a couple of points and we two or three possessions in a row where we turned the ball over, or we didn't get off a good shot. We had some empty possessions. Those are opportunities where you build the lead and increase your confidence. We never really got to that."
Trailing by seven, 35-28, at halftime, BYU opened the second half with a 12-3 run, including a 3-pointer by Haws. Davies' bucket with 16:16 remaining gave the Cougars their first lead (40-38) since 2-0.
But San Diego responded with an 8-1 run before Haws scored back-to-back baskets to tie the game at 46-all. The Toreros re-took the lead, and extended it to five, 54-49, after a 3-pointer by Dee.
Davies, who finished with nine rebounds and eight assists, brought BYU back again with four straight points, as the two teams traded baskets throughout the closing minutes.
The Cougars dug a hole for themselves in the first half. The Toreros gradually built a lead behind contributions from Dee and Anderson. Forward Ken Rancifer hurt the Cougars with a pair of 3-pointers that gave San Diego a 26-18 advantage.
Moments later, Dee drilled a 3-pointer that gave the Toreros their largest lead, 31-20.
For most of the first half, Davies produced most of BYU's offense, scoring 11 points by intermission.
Haws, who played just 12 minutes in the first half after dealing with the flu this week, finally scored his first basket of the game with 3:30 left in the half, then quickly scored again to pull the Cougars to within six, 31-25.
"I'm a little under the weather," Haws said. "I guess we were just trying to save the minutes for the second half, but I felt fine. It's a matter of not being able to get a win tonight."
BYU trailed at halftime, 35-28, as it shot just 36 percent from the field. The Cougars also had seven turnovers in the first half.
"It was difficult in the first half. We did climb out of it a little bit," guard Craig Cusick said. "But all the credit in the world to San Diego, because their game plan and they way they executed made it difficult for us to get over that edge."56 comments on this story
"We got off to a really good start in the game," Grier said. "We had a good flow about us in the first half. In the second half, we knew they were going to come out and ratchet it up, which they did."
NOTES: Announced attendance was 7,896 With 14:03 remaining, Carlino fellawkwardly, and hard, to the floor and appeared to injure his leg. He was escorted to the locker room, but returned shortly thereafter. He took the floor moments later Carlino wore bright blue shoes Friday night Forward Nate Austin started Friday in place of guard Craig Cusick to provide BYU a better rebounding presence. BYU outrebounded USD, 38-35.