We were horrible from the 3-point line, and they executed their stuff really well. They're a really good team. —BYU guard Elijah Bryant
PROVO — Saturday wasn't the model of offensive efficiency, for neither the BYU football team in its 16-10 loss to UMass, nor for the basketball squad, which fell to visiting UT Arlington 89-75 in a game that wasn't as close as the final score would indicate.
Bad 3-point shooting, some lackluster defense and a big cold spell for the final 10 minutes of the first half led to the Cougars taking another big loss to the Mavericks, about eight months after the 105-89 shellacking taken the first round of the NIT Tournament.
"It was a long night," said BYU coach Dave Rose. "I thought we had a good game plan and they just outexecuted us. We had a really tough time making shots — especially in the first half."
Things started out well enough for the Cougars, as the teams battled to a 15-15 tie with just over 10 minutes gone in the first half. But then the wheels came off.
UTA surged to a 17-2 run to take a commanding 32-17 lead, which it maintained before heading into the break up 43-28.
The Cougars shot just 33 percent in the first half, with a paltry 2-15 effort from 3-point range. The Mavericks meanwhile converted on six of their 10 attempts from 3-point range in the first half while outrebounding the Cougars 21-12.
"They just made shots, and we didn't," said BYU guard Elijah Bryant. "We were horrible from the 3-point line, and they executed their stuff really well. They're a really good team."
Leading the way for the Mavericks was point guard Erick Neal, who paced his team with 21 points and 10 assists, earning himself praise from Rose in postgame.
"A big, big key to that team is their little point guard," Rose said. "I mean, he's as good as any point guard we've played against. I mean, I'm talking about Jeff Teague and some of these dudes that have come in here. This guy can get to where his team needs him to get and then deliver the ball."
TJ Haws dished out eight assists for the Cougars, while contributing 11 points, with Bryant and Dalton Nixon each scoring a team-high 15 points. Nixon's point total was a career high, as was his eight rebounds.
"Dalton is a fighter. He's a good competitor," Rose said. "We've got to find ways to give him more minutes. He's a guy who has come across quick, which is good."
The Cougar offense picked up in the second half — particularly down the stretch, but the problem was the inability to slow down the Mavericks. Rose was encouraged by some of the things he saw in the second half, although his team couldn't make a game of it at any point.
"The one thing I was encouraged about was that sometimes when you can't make a shot your team kind of falls apart and they all individually try and go on their own. But I thought our guys stayed together pretty good," Rose said. "They competed pretty well, even though they never really got on top of it."
The Cougars will try to get on top of it on Tuesday, when taking on visiting Niagara, with their now 2-1 record on the early season.