It was a fun game. They beat us fair and square. —BYU guard Elijah Bryant
STANFORD, Calif. — BYU’s season ended at Maples Pavilion Wednesday night in the first round of the National Invitation Tournament, but the Cougars didn’t go down without a fight.
“It was a crazy game,” said Cougar forward Payton Dastrup.
Trailing No. 3 seed Stanford 83-73 with 36 seconds remaining, No. 6 BYU roared back in the waning moments and cut the deficit to two points, 85-83 with 11 seconds left.
The Cougars had a chance to force overtime but guard Elijah Bryant was fouled while bringing the ball into the frontcourt, before he could attempt a 3-pointer.
“I heard their coach saying ‘foul,’" Bryant said. "I was trying to get the ball up (for a 3) to get three free throws. I knew they were going to foul me.”
Bryant first free-throw attempt was off the mark, then he missed the second on purpose to try to give his team another chance. TJ Haws snatched the rebound and attempted a 3-pointer that missed with two seconds left.
And with that, the Cardinal had earned a dramatic 86-83 victory.
“We always fight until the end. We were in the same situation against San Francisco (earlier this season). You’ve got to keep playing because you never know what will happen,” said Bryant, who scored a game-high 28 points. “If we had made a couple of more shots and I had made a couple more free throws, we’d have been in a better spot. It was a fun game. They beat us fair and square.”
“We missed some free throws and shots down the stretch,” Dastrup said. “We take the loss as a team.”
BYU finished the season with a 24-11 record and bowed out in the first round of the NIT for the second consecutive season.
Stanford (19-15) will take on Oklahoma State, which defeated Florida Gulf Coast Tuesday, in the second round of the NIT.
The Cougars found themselves down 72-58 with 6:13 left in the game after coach Dave Rose was called for a technical foul.
That spurred a 10-0 BYU run to make the score 72-68 with 3:14 remaining.
“We were frustrated with a lot of things that were happening. We only had a few guys here and a lot sitting on the bench with fouls,” Rose said. “Those are things that were pretty difficult for us. One thing these guys are really good at is playing for each other. We’ve got a group of guys that fight until the end.”
“Anytime someone has your back like that, you play with more energy,” Bryant said.
“When a coach does that, he does that for his team,” Dastrup said. “He was fighting for us. We were able to answer back. It’s a testament to this team.”
The Cougars built a nine-point lead late in the second quarter against Stanford and they seemed to be cruising.
Then BYU had too many empty possessions and too few stops, resulting in a 12-0 Cardinal run that stretched over the first and second halves and the Cougars couldn’t recover — and never led again.
“They came out in the second half and that third quarter was a problem for us,” Rose said. “They outscored us by 13 in the third quarter. They went right to the front of the rim. They knew we had a couple of guys in foul trouble and they went right at us.”
Stanford's Oscar da Silva banked home a 3-pointer to end the third quarter to put the Cardinal ahead 61-52. Then came the technical foul on Rose.
Bryant scored 12 points in the first quarter. BYU’s Yoeli Childs fouled out with 2:27 remaining after scoring 11 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
For Stanford, Reid Travis scored 25 points and pulled down 14 rebounds. Dorian Pickens had 17 points while Michael Humphrey added 11 points and 14 rebounds.
Stanford dominated the Cougars on the boards, 47-37, though BYU outscored the Cardinal in the paint 54-40.
BYU fell behind 13-8 early on but closed out the first quarter with a 10-3 run to take an 18-16 advantage going into the second quarter. Bryant finished the quarter with a game-high 12 points.
The Cougars extended their lead over the Cardinal to as many as nine late in the second period thanks to a 10-0 run, including a 3-pointer by freshman Rylan Bergersen.
But with 46 seconds left in the half, Childs picked up his third foul and Stanford finished the quarter with a 5-0 run to cut the deficit to 39-35 at halftime.