Since beginning the season with four straight wins, BYU has now gone 4-5 after losing 87-76 at Loyola Marymount Saturday to begin conference play.
Losing to Top 10 and Top 25 teams in close games is one thing. Being blown out by Loyola Marymount is something else entirely.
This cat fight was over quickly as the Lions pounced on the Cougars early with a 20-5 run to take a 24-10 lead less than eight minutes into the game.
BYU never got to within single digits again. The Cougars must have felt like they were playing at the Huntsman Center again as this game followed nearly an identical pattern to the Utah game.
Maybe the Cougars had too much Christmas candy. Maybe they didn’t have enough. Either way, this loss to Loyola Marymount, a team that came in with a far-from-impressive resume this season, is a bad loss.
Tyler Haws, Matt Carlino and Kyle Collinsworth combined for more turnovers and fouls than they did field goals in the game, despite 41 field goal attempts. That about says it all.
Here are the grades for each BYU position group and other aspects of the game.
Haws had more turnovers than field goals, making just 4-of-15 shots while turning the ball over five times. He had just one assist with no steals or blocks.
Carlino continued his slide, making only 4-of-13 shots to go along with just one assist, two rebounds, no steals or blocks, and five fouls.
Collinsworth was better than Haws and Carlino but continued to play carelessly, turning the ball over five times.
The guards off the bench were better than the starters, as Frank Bartley IV, Anson Winder and Skyler Halford combined to make 7-of-13 shots to go along with six assists, eight rebounds and two steals.
As has been the case all season, the Cougars pretty much go as Haws, Carlino and Collinsworth go. This explains why they didn’t go far in this game. The guards off the bench brought this grade up.
BYU BIG MEN
Nate Austin fouled out again. His five fouls equaled his rebounding total. He had two assists and two points in 25 minutes.
Luke Worthington and Josh Sharp combined for 12 minutes off the bench. They mostly watched the guards fire up shots and had little impact.
Statistically, Eric Mika was the best player for BYU. Mika, despite only playing 26 minutes, made 5-of-8 shots and 7-of-11 free throws for 17 points. If he could have shot that percentage from the foul line last game, the Cougars would have beaten Oregon. Mika also added seven boards, an assist and a block.
After being embarrassed by Loyola Marymount, it is safe to say BYU is now officially underachieving this season. The Cougars still have a lot to play for, but this loss will knock them out of the NCAA tournament picture for now. They will likely have to win the WCC tournament to get in.
It is a discouraging sign that BYU continues to be plagued by the same problems as the season progresses and seems to have digressed in some ways. Here’s guessing that head coach Dave Rose is challenging his players to look at themselves in the mirror and find a little more mental and physical toughness within.
BYU has been an extremely soft team this season.
This year, there have been several questionable decisions, especially regarding minute distribution, consistency in defensive strategy and shot selection.
The Cougars completely lack a positive defensive identity.
LOYOLA MARYMOUNT OVERALL
The best thing the Lions did versus the Cougars was protect the basketball. The biggest difference in the game was assist-to-turnover ratio. The Lions had just seven turnovers with 19 assists, while the Cougars had 13 turnovers with 14 assists.
Loyola Marymount also knocked down its 3-pointers and free throws, making 8-of-17 from long distance and 21-of-27 from the charity stripe.
The Lions made just 21-of-52 (40 percent) on 2-point shots and were outrebounded by three, but made a lot more hustle plays than BYU — more than doubling up the Cougars in combined steals and blocks.
Guards Anthony Ireland and Evan Payne led the Lions with a combined 41 points, 12 assists, six rebounds, four steals and just two turnovers.
With an attendance of less than 3,000 people, the crowd and atmosphere was nothing to write home about.
Lions fans, while few in number, had a lot to cheer about.
Cougar fans with kids at the game hopefully used it as an opportunity to teach their kids how not to play basketball.
Nate Gagon is a published sports, music, and creative writer. He is also a wholehearted father, grateful husband and ardent student of life. He shoots roughly 94% from the free throw line and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org or @nategagon.