MORAGA, California — Some of the names for Saint Mary’s have changed. But for BYU, the result stayed pretty much the same at McKeon Pavilion.
Former Gaels Jock Landale, Calvin Hermanson and Emmett Naar have moved on but Jordan Ford, Tanner Krebs and Malik Fitts gave the Cougars fits Saturday night.
BYU lost to Saint Mary’s, 88-66, here for the seventh time in eight tries as members of the West Coast Conference. The Cougars' lone win in Moraga came in 2014.
Asked to describe what went wrong for his team Saturday, BYU forward Yoeli Childs didn't mince words.
“How much time do you have? Seriously. We didn’t guard the 3-point line well, too many turnovers that led to transition buckets," he said. "Saint Mary’s does a great job inside … as you go to the rim. We should have been tougher and finished more of those. I was atrocious in the first half, wasn’t aggressive enough. Did you see anything we did well tonight? That sums it up.”
With the win, the Gaels (10-7, 1-1) earned their first conference victory of the season and exacted a measure of revenge for their loss to the Cougars (9-8, 1-1) in the WCC Tournament semifinals last March.
While BYU opened WCC play last Thursday with a dramatic win at Pacific, Saint Mary’s dropped its conference opener at San Francisco.
Certainly, this Gael team isn’t as good as it’s been in recent years, but, then again, this Cougar team has struggled more than usual this season, too.
Fitts, a South Florida transfer, missed his first two 3-point attempts but drilled three in a row in the first half that helped Saint Mary’s build a double-digit lead and changed the complexion of the game.
“It was almost kind of like we dared him to shoot it," BYU coach Dave Rose said of Fitts, "and he put it right in our eye.”
"We knew he was a good shooter. He's a good driver as well. I was probably playing his drive a little too much," Childs said of Fitts. "Saint Mary’s is a really tough team to play when they’re ahead. Our effort was there in the second half, but it was more of an out-of-control effort. When you get down to a team like that, it’s tough to come back.”
Ford finished with a game-high 23 points, while Fitts added 18 and Krebs chipped in 14.
"With that core group that left (Saint Mary's), they're a little bit different," Childs said. "They kind of run it around Jordan Ford a little more. He has more freedom than guys have had in the past. They don't throw it in the post nearly as much as when they had Jock."
“He makes shots. He’s really shifty," Cougar guard Connor Harding said of Ford. "You have to get out on him and then he blows right by you. He’s a hard offensive player to guard.”
Rose praised Ford, too.
“He’s a great finisher. He’s a good perimeter shooter and you have to get right up to him," he said. "Then when he gets past you, he’s got a great shot. He’s really creative.”
For BYU, Childs turned in a double-double with 21 points and 12 rebounds. TJ Haws scored 20 and Nick Emery added 13.
BYU fell behind by as many as 13 in the first half and couldn’t recover. Saint Mary’s led by as many as 26 the second half as the Cougars missed too many shots and couldn't defend.
“We gave up easy lay-ups and easy shots," Harding said. "Defensively, we got scattered and we weren’t connected and that’s where we lost the momentum.”
Krebs scored Saint Mary’s first seven points in the second half as the Gaels continued to roll.
Saint Mary's ended up shooting 55 percent from the floor, including 60 percent in the second half. BYU shot 40 percent for the game.
In the early going, the Cougars kept things close with Saint Mary’s as Emery knocked down a couple of 3-pointers. Emery’s second 3 of the first half tied the game at 18-18.
The contest was tied at 25 when the Gaels went on a 17-4 run, highlighted by back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers by Fitts as Saint Mary’s seized a 42-29 advantage. During that stretch, the Cougars scored only one basket in the final three minutes of the half, when Haws drilled a 30-footer at the buzzer.
The Gaels led 42-32 at intermission, and BYU struggled defensively as Ford had scored 12 points and Fitts added 10. BYU shot just 36 percent from the field in the first half compared to 48 percent for Saint Mary’s.47 comments on this story
Childs finished the half with just five points on 1-of-5 shooting from the field while Emery had eight. Haws led the Cougars with 13.
BYU hosts Portland in its WCC home opener next Thursday at the Marriott Center.
TIP-INS: Childs recorded his 10th double-double this season and 30th of his career. His 30 double-doubles are tied with Steve Trumbo for sixth most in BYU history. … Haws recorded his eighth game this season with three-plus 3s. It is also the 32nd of his career, the eighth most in BYU history.