They’re a bunch of fighters who don’t ever quit. —Dave Rose
PROVO — For BYU coach Dave Rose, the way Wednesday’s NIT first-round game ended was emblematic of the season.
The No. 6-seeded Cougars battled back from a 10-point deficit to No. 3 Stanford with 36 seconds remaining and pulled to within 85-83 on a 3-pointer by Elijah Bryant with 11 seconds left. BYU had a shot to tie the game with a 3-pointer with two seconds remaining that missed the mark.
In the end, the Cougars fell to the Cardinal 86-83.
And with that, BYU's season came to an end with a 24-11 record.
“I told the guys that what comes to my mind is that it’s kind of how I’ll remember the entire season with these guys,” Rose said. “They’re a bunch of fighters who don’t ever quit. When things aren’t going very good, they can find a way to turn it and make it better. It’s been kind of a season that way of these guys going through tough times.”
There were plenty of tough times during the season, beginning with the loss of guard Nick Emery, who withdrew from school just days before the campaign tipped off. Forwards Ryan Andrus and Braiden Shaw didn’t play due to injuries.
Forward Dalton Nixon missed a stretch of games in December and January before returning and becoming a reliable contributor.
But Nixon suffered a shoulder injury in the setback to Gonzaga in the WCC Tournament championship game. He underwent surgery Tuesday, making him unavailable for the NIT.
“These guys continue on. We didn’t give up,” Rose said. “That’s what I’ll always remember about these guys. These guys play for each other.”
BYU’s late comeback effort against Stanford was reminiscent of its 75-73 overtime win over San Francisco in February.
The Cougars trailed by six points with 39 seconds left in regulation, with Bryant eventually drilling a 3-pointer to force overtime.
When asked about Wednesday’s rally against Stanford, forward Payton Dastrup, who scored nine points, explained what his team is capable of.
“Just ask San Francisco,” he said.
Bryant finished with a game-high 28 points on 11-of-20 shooting from the floor. He also knocked down 3 of 6 3-pointers and grabbed 10 rebounds.
As a team, BYU connected on only 6 of 27 3-pointers. TJ Haws was 0 for 7 from distance.
Yoeli Childs found himself in foul trouble most of the night and fouled out after scoring 11 points and grabbing 10 rebounds.
The Cougars were disappointed to see the season come to a conclusion.
“It’s just a shame that we came up short,” Rose said. “I know these guys still want to play. It happens. You get to the point to where there are no more games. That’s how it goes.”
How would Dastrup assess this season?
“I think we were always an underdog. At one point, there were only eight available scholarship guys on our team that were healthy,” he said. “People outside our locker room don’t even know the logistics behind all of it. We continued to practice every single day and fight and get better.
"We ended the season not exactly on the greatest note but on a strong note. We beat a great San Diego team and we beat an outstanding Saint Mary’s team (in the WCC Tournament). Gonzaga proved that they are a powerhouse. We came in here with confidence and just came up a little bit short.”
Dastrup said he’s already looking ahead to next season.
“We know we’ve got a ton of potential and a lot to look forward to next season. We’re excited where we are at. It wasn’t the result we wanted but I love these guys and I love going to battle with them every day.
"This is a stepping stone toward where we want to get next season. There’s a lot of things that we’re going to take from the end of this season and build on confidence and potential. We’re going to be excited to get going in the summer for workouts going into next year.”