LAS VEGAS — These are the sides of March.
Moments after its dominating 80-57 victory — and it wasn’t even that close — over BYU Saturday night at Orleans Arena, San Diego waltzed into the interview room wearing broad smiles and cracking jokes.
The Toreros had just won their third game in three nights and they became just the fourth No. 7 seed to advance to the West Coast Conference semifinals, where they’ll face Saint Mary’s Monday night.
The USD players talked about their plans for their day off on Sunday — going to the movies.
“What movie are you going to?” someone asked star forward Isaiah Pineiro, who finished with 27 points and 12 rebounds against the Cougars.
Then the mood in the room turned somber as BYU coach Dave Rose and senior captain Luke Worthington walked in looking a little shell-shocked.
The Cougars, who were the No. 3 seed, trailed 13-0 in the first five minutes and were never in the game. BYU fell behind by 27 points at halftime (46-19) and that deficit ballooned to as many as 44 points (69-25) in the second half.
The Cougars shot an abysmal 5.9 percent (1 of 17) from 3-point range. It marked the worst 3-point shooting performance in WCC tournament history.
BYU outscored USD 32-11 over the final 12 minutes of the game but still ended up losing by 23 points.
In the wake of that embarrassing loss, uncertainty abounds for BYU and the Cougars have tough questions to answer.
For starters, was that Yoeli Childs’ final game in a Cougar uniform? He’s expected to turn pro after the season and if the National Invitation Tournament doesn’t hand a bid to BYU next weekend, the Cougars’ season could be over.
There are other tournaments out there — the CBI and the CIT. But participating teams have to pay to play. Would BYU be willing to do that to extend its season?62 comments on this story
“We obviously need to talk to our administration and see what they feel,” Rose said. “We’ve never had that conversation. We’ve always felt like we compete for one of those two postseason tournaments. We’ll see.”
With a 19-13 record, the Cougars finished the regular season with fewer than 20 victories for the first time since 2004-05 — the year before Rose’s first season as head coach.
If Saturday's throttling at the hands of San Diego turns out to be BYU's final game of the season, it figures that the Cougars will have a bitter taste in their mouths that will linger throughout the offseason.