PROVO — Dave Rose lost his third home game in one season for the first time in his career Saturday night when 21st-ranked St. Mary's beat the Cougars 80-66.
First it was No. 6 Baylor Dec. 17, then unranked Loyola Marymount, now it was the Gaels' turn.
A frustrated BYU crowd, mostly the student section, hurled trash on the floor during and after the game and at one point began a chant: "Worst refs ever."
It was an emotional, physical game and St. Mary's rose above it.
Some in BYU's crowd should have risen above it, too but didn't.
The Gaels were tougher, more accurate, more experienced, less rattled and more confident. They were older, more mature, quicker and had better beards. BYU ended the first half down 40-28 to the WCC leaders and the Cougars had three freshmen on the floor when the halftime buzzer sounded.
There may not be a right time for BYU to "catch" St. Mary's this season — not even in Las Vegas at the Orleans Arena because Randy Bennett's squad is that good.
But to come into a big home-court showdown, having shot a measly 9 for 60 from 3-point land the last three games, and have hope? Nope.
BYU made just 2 of 13 from distance against the Gaels. They're now 11 of 73 from 3-point land the last four games.
Cold-shooting BYU was doomed as roosters in an egg-laying contest.
You must either credit St. Mary's defense or blame BYU's cold shooting, a 55 to 41 percent difference on the night. Since the Cougars are officially in an ice box from distance, I'll go with that, it's a trend.
SMC led by as much as 23 with 16:49 to play in the game but the Cougars cut it to nine in the final minutes. SMC had 24 turnovers to BYU's 15 and outscored the Cougars by 11 at the line (14 of 22 to 25 of 33).
The Cougars tried everything to stop SMC guard Matt Dellavedova.
The WCC's best player never wilted, even when he made just 1 of 4 shots from the field and had 10 points.
You stop Dellavedova from controlling the game with his dribble and passes and you have a chance. Even when he scored just 10 points, he set up SMC shooters all night.
BYU tried with their best defender, Charles Abouo, sick on the bench most of the time. They had Anson Winder chase him from baseline to foul line for 10 seconds so close he could give him a breath test and he couldn't get a 5-second call.
The Cougars picked up Dellavedova at three-quarter court, tried to pressure him and wear him down in the Wasatch's thin altitude but the Aussie came equipped with an oxygen bottle and mask. Kryptonite couldn't faze him, so how could the Cougar defenders with three guys trading off like a tag team?
Dellavedova started the second half with three personals and got in a series of sweaty scrums with bodies flying around like a UFC cage battle and still, he avoided a tap out.
Bennett left him in. "We need him in there," he said. The gamble paid off, Dellavedova never picked up his fourth the rest of the game. He kept feeding Brad Waldow (19), Rob Jones (13) and Clint Steindl (16).
Dellavedova still controlled the game, even when he wasn't scoring.
"He's a tough player," said Bennett.
This was a big-time BYU crowd that drew an administrative technical when some pre-warned fans threw junk on the floor. Rose even got vocal at a WCC official during a timeout when Dellavedova escaped an apparent trip of Brock Zylstra while diving for a loose ball in the second half.
But as much as officials let the game get out of their grip early and late, the refs were not the reason BYU lost this game, it was only a sideshow.
This was a BYU self-inflicted shot between the big toes. Just like LMU.
You shoot 15 percent from beyond the arc at home against the league-leader and you are going down.
"We'll work through this," said freshman Matt Carlino, who scored 15 but was 0-for-5 from the 3-point stripe. "Teams get in slumps. We'll do better, we have too many great shooters on this team."
What didn't disappoint is the defensive effort BYU put into this night. The Cougars couldn't outshoot the Gaels but they hustled and battled in a vein-bulging way.
"Both teams played hard," said BYU senior Noah Hartsock.
But this is a game of baskets. You need hard play but the ball has to go in the can.
BYU couldn't do it until the game was over and custodians picked up trash from the floor and deposited it in bags.
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