Figure this one out: BYU shoots poorly on Friday night and loses by two, then shoots worse on Saturday night and wins by two.
The Cougars edged the Golden Hurricane of Tulsa 62-60 before 10,000 fans in the Marriott Center Saturday, despite shooting 38.1 percent from the field.BYU Coach Roger Reid jokingly suggested that he might have been the difference. "Evidently last night I was a bad coach and tonight I was a good coach," he said.
Maybe, but more important was the 29.2 percent that Tulsa shot for the game. The Golden Hurricane came into the game shooting 45 percent on the season, so when they shot 37.9 percent in the first half it seemed reasonable to assume they would improve.
No way. They made only one of their first 14 shots and went nine and a half minutes without a field goal, ultimately shooting 22.2 percent for the half.
BYU, meanwhile, was having shooting problems of its own. The Cougars made one field goal in the final eight minutes, but stayed in the ballgame by attempting 28 free throws - and making 19 - during that stretch.
To emphasize how important the free throw was to the BYU offense, note that Steve Schreiner was the Cougs' leading scorer, despite having only three field goals. Thirteen of his 19 points came from free throws.
For the game the Cougars took 47 foul shots, a Marriott Center record, while the Hurricane shot just 21. Four Tulsa players fouled out, compared to one BYU player. Typically, a discrepancy that great generates cries of homer-ism by the losing coach, but the three referees for this game were from the Missouri Valley Conference - Tulsa's conference.
That didn't make Tulsa Coach J.D. Barnett any less upset about the officiating, and he placed a complaint call to the league office soon after the game. He didn't give the refs sole blame for the loss, though. He said his team did not play hard.
"I'm not taking anything away from BYU, but we're more athletic than they are," Barnett said. "We can make more things happen than them."
Barnett then acknowledged that he might have made a coaching mistake - the night before the game.
"They (his players) watched BYU against Stetson last night and they didn't come away real impressed," he said. "That probably wasn'tgood. I shouldn't have let them come to the game."
Reid, meanwhile, thought his team's zone defense might have had more impact on the game than the Hurricane's attitude. BYU usually plays a man-to-man defense, but Reid felt that his team couldn't keep up with the quicker Tulsa players so he opened the game in a zone. That forced Tulsa to take outside shots or drive inside against the much bigger Cougar defenders.
Barnett told his players not to worry about BYU's 7-foot-6 Shawn Bradley, and to "take everything right into his face." They followed orders, and Bradley smacked nine of their shots back into their faces.
This game also marked another change in BYU's game - the first change in the starting lineup this season. Reid started Scott Moon in place of Heslop and Jared Miller instead of Schreiner. Moon finished with 16 points, including three second-half drives through the heart of the Tulsa defense that Reid said were the "turning point in the ballgame." Miller had 10 points and eight rebounds in 24 minutes, and Schreiner had 19 points and 10 rebounds in 26 minutes. Heslop played just two minutes and 32 seconds, missing one shot.
Reid downplayed the lineup changes, saying he started Moon and Miller because they have worked hard and deserved it, and because Moon is quicker than Heslop.
"I thought it was time to let people know we've got other guys on this team," the coach said.
The lineup changes didn't seem to be helping much at the start, as BYU had trouble getting shots off and fell behind 14-7. The Cougars took the lead for the first time at 18-17 as Bradley and Schreiner combined for nine points, and then it was Tulsa's turn for a small spurt.
The Golden Hurricane scored seven straight to go back on top 24-18, then handed the ball to BYU, which scored eight straight to lead 26-24. The half finally ended 30-27, Tulsa.
The second half was a continued exercise in offensive futility, with Moon's drives the only BYU highlight. Tulsa's high point, on the other hand, was when Barnett got a technical foul and was soundly berated by his players. Hurricane Marcell Gordon came over to the sideline after the whistle, got face-to-face with his coach and said, "That cost us two." It did, but Tulsa stayed close regardless.
With 2:16 left the Cougs led by eight and appeared to have it put away.
Not so. Alyn Thomsen hit a short jumper from the left baseline, and after one free throw by Bradley, Gordon scored and added a free throw - on Bradley's fifth foul - to cut the Cougar lead to four.
Miller and Schreiner then made one free throw each to up the Cougar lead to six, and Nathan Call stepped to the line for two shots and a chance to end it. He missed them both, however, and Tulsa's Kelly Wells canned a three-pointer. Three-point game, 19 seconds left.
Moon made two free throws to boost the lead back to five, but Call fouled Benny Gibbs attempting a three-pointer, and Gibbs made all three free throws.
With 13 seconds left, Tulsa fouled Call, a 67-percent free-throw shooter who had missed two 14 seconds earlier. This time Call made them both. Tulsa scored again to reach the final score, but the game was over.
BYU next plays Thursday against nationally ranked South Carolina in the opening round of the Holiday Festival tourney in New York.
Until then, Reid said he plans to take a few days off and get into Christmas.
"I haven't slept well lately and I haven't even heard 'Jingle Bells' yet," Reid said. "I'm just going to enjoy Christmas now."