There were 16 lead changes, overtime and multiple attempts to win the game in regulation, but in the end, BYU couldn’t get it done as the Cougars suffered a heartbreaking 72-68 overtime loss to Boise State on the road.
After beating Houston Friday night in thrilling fashion — a team that went to the Sweet 16 last year — the Cougars followed it up with a bad loss to Boise State, a team that finished 13-20 last season and was picked to finish fifth in the Mountain West Conference (MWC) this year.
Playing in the West Coast Conference (WCC) — which is usually behind the Mountain West, Atlantic 10, Conference USA and other group of 5 conferences in terms of strength of schedule — BYU doesn’t have room to slip up and can’t afford to lose games that it should win.
With the Cougars playing without star forward Yoeli Childs who continues to serve a nine-game suspension, the seniors presence was noticeably needed on a night where the Cougars continued to struggle from beyond the arc.
For the game, BYU finished shooting 37.8% from the field (28-74) and just 29.2% from beyond the arc (7-24).
While Jake Toolson had 19 points, six rebounds and four assists for the Cougars, the senior struggled shooting the ball all night, including his game-winning shot that ended as an air ball. The UVU transfer also had an ugly turnover in overtime to seal the win for the Broncos. Senior guard TJ Haws, who finished with 10 points and four rebounds, didn’t fare any better as he went 5-of-16 from the field, including 0-8 from beyond the arc.
The only bright spot for BYU was sophomore Connor Harding who finished the game with 10 points and four rebounds in just 29 minutes. The 6-foot-6 small forward was perfect from beyond the arc and his back-to-back 3-point shots gave BYU it’s first lead in nearly 20 minutes midway through the second half.
Besides the play of Harding, who was limited because of foul trouble, the only other reason the Cougars were in the game was because of its three-point defense, as BYU held Boise State to just 3-of-19 from beyond the arc. In its last three games, the Cougars have held its opponents to just seven 3-pointers (7-48) or 14.5% from deep.
Yet, all those games were close which tells you just how bad BYU’s shooting woes have been this season.
While BYU’s shooting woes didn’t help, it didn’t help either that Boise State benefited from some homecookin’ calls as the Broncos finished the game with 27 free throw attempts compared to just seven for the Cougars.
And with Gonzaga — which is currently undefeated and ranked No. 8 in the nation — looking like they will repeat as WCC Champions, the Cougars need all the help they can get to help themselves and the WCC get multiple bids in the NCAA Tournament.
If BYU wants to get back to the Big Dance for the first time since 2015, the Cougars need to win games they should, and pull off some upsets like they did against Houston too. After taking three steps forward in its win over Houston, the Cougars took two steps back with its loss to Boise State.
BYU will look to get back on track as it looks to bolster its resume as the Cougars take on UCLA in the Maui Invitational. UCLA currently leads the series 11-10 and its the first time since 2014 that BYU is playing in the tournament. The Cougars will face either Kansas or Chaminade in the second round.