RENO, Nevada — In the so-called Biggest Little City in the World, BYU tried to pull perhaps the biggest upset in the country on the opening night of the college basketball season Tuesday against No. 7 Nevada.
In a game plagued with an absurd amount of fouls, the Cougars had to play much of the second half without their star, forward Yoeli Childs, who was relegated to the bench due to foul trouble.
While BYU (0-1) kept things close during that stretch, the Wolf Pack pulled away from the Cougars, 86-70, in the season opener for both teams in front of a sellout crowd at Lawlor Events Center.
“Late in the second half, they made some plays down the stretch and we didn’t hit shots," said guard Jahshire Hardnett. “We competed with those guys and we played hard enough to win the game."
"We had good enough fight to us," said coach Dave Rose. "We just didn’t execute. It’s a shame because this was a winnable game for our guys. They’re really disappointed.”
Childs was whistled for his first foul 15 seconds into the game. Then he picked up his third and fourth fouls within the first minute of the second half, sending him back to the bench.
“It’s the beginning of the year. There were a couple of calls that didn’t go our way but that’s beside the point," Childs said. "There were fouls that were called on them that shouldn’t have been called. It’s not the officiating’s fault by any means. We’re too mature to get into foul trouble. I got into foul trouble early and that should never happen. That’s not on the refs. It’s on us. We’ve just got to learn from it.”
With 17:10 left in the game, Zac Seljaas buried a 3-pointer to give the Cougars a 46-42 lead. Moments later, two free throws by Hardnett put BYU ahead 52-51.
“We found a way for us to play well with him sitting down," Rose said. "I don’t anticipate him playing only 26 minutes in a game like this. We were down and we even got ahead of them. There’s a lot of fight in this group.”
“I was proud of my guys. This is a great team, a deep team," Childs said. "It’s nice to know that if I get into foul trouble, the guys can stick with it and play well.”
Then Nevada (1-0) went on a 7-0 run to go up 59-52.
At that point, after sitting out for the next eight minutes, Childs returned to the floor with about 11 minutes left in the game, with BYU trailing 59-52. Childs immediately scored to pull the Cougars to within 59-54.
But over the final 10 minutes, Nevada took control.
Wolf Pack forward Caleb Martin, who was held scoreless in the first half after getting into early foul trouble, ended up pouring in 21 points, including three 3-pointers, while Jordan Caroline added a game-high 25 points and pulled down 16 rebounds. Jazz Johnson added 12 points.
Hardnett led BYU with 17 points while Childs scored 16 points and grabbed 12 boards.
BYU shot 37 percent from the field and 19 percent (6 of 31) from 3-point territory.
“We played hard enough to win," Childs said. "We just shot horrible.”
"We didn’t make enough 3-pointers,” Hardnett said.
The Cougars committed 27 fouls. Nevada hit 28 of 39 shots from the free throw line. BYU was 12 of 19 from the charity stripe.
The Wolf Pack shot 38 percent from the field and 28 percent from the 3-point line.
Nevada, the preseason Mountain West Conference favorites, won 29 games and advanced to the Sweet 16 in last year’s NCAA Tournament.
The Wolf Pack jumped out to a 9-0 lead in the opening minutes as BYU missed their first eight shots from the floor. Seljaas knocked down the first shot of the season, a 3-pointer, for the Cougars with 14:54 left in the first half.
Then BYU settled down and actually took a 22-20 lead after a 3-pointer by TJ Haws.
The Cougars closed out the half on a 6-0 run, including a putback by Kolby Lee with 54 seconds remaining. What made that even more impressive was the fact that Childs was on the bench the final three minutes of the half with two fouls.
At intermission, BYU and the Wolf Pack were tied 34-34.49 comments on this story
In the first half, the Cougars were whistled for 15 personal fouls and Nevada hit 13 of 21 free throws.
Nevada shot 27 percent in the first half, compared to 31 percent for the Cougars.
BYU hosts Utah Valley University Friday in the Cougars’ home-opener.
TIP-INS: Cougar forward Dalton Nixon started in place of 6-foot-10 Luke Worthington, who made his third career start and his first since the 2014-15 season … Gavin Baxter’s first collegiate shot came in the form of a first-half dunk … Worthington had three fouls in three minutes in the first half.