BYU’s defensive breakdown resulted in a crushing 87–99 loss to the San Francisco Dons, resulting in a winless week of play for the Cougars.
Dropping its second game in a row, BYU is now 8–4 in conference play with an 18–8 overall record.
“San Francisco played a great second half, and we had a difficult time containing the ball in whatever defense we were in,” BYU coach Dave Rose said. “They drove us pretty good and kicked it to an open shooter and really got on a roll. We had a hard time matching it and lost momentum. They just didn’t let up.”
It seemed as if BYU would cruise by the Dons for the first 28 minutes of the game. Despite the slow start by the “Big Three,” the key players were able to step up and spark the first-half run.
The Cougars led 48–39 at the half, but USF made 9 of its 10 three-pointers in the second half and finished the game shooting 14-23 from beyond the arc. The momentum shifted quickly, and the Dons never looked back.
“That was a great shooting percentage for them and a great shooting exhibition by them,” Brock Zylstra said. “It took us out of our game. They never give up. Coach Walters’ mentality is reflected in his players. He’s just a fighter. All those guys are fighters.”
Tyler Haws, who scored 16 points during the night, was assessed his first technical foul and couldn’t get into an offensive rhythm. Five Cougars finished in double-figures, including Zylstra, who finished with a season-high 18 points.
The physical game led to a total of 63 free throw attempts. BYU improved its free-throw shooting, going 25–29 from the charity stripe compared to 11–22 against San Diego. But that didn’t matter against the Dons, who couldn’t miss from the floor. USF got a huge lift from its bench, which outscored BYU’s bench 49–24.
“You definitely have to give them a lot of credit,” forward Brandon Davies said. “We haven’t seen a team come in and shoot like that, especially in a half. It’s definitely hard to swallow. They were shooting lights out, and we had a couple letdowns defensively. They were making shots, and just the littlest letdown can turn into a disaster.”
And a disaster it was as USF scored 60 of their points in the second half.
“The flow wasn’t the way it was in the first half on offense for us,” Zylstra said. “We weren’t getting in spots we normally do. Their physicality was a big part of that. Our flow wasn’t ‘BYU’s flow.'”
With only one game in the upcoming week, against Portland on Saturday, the Cougars look to focus on defense and get back on track. If the Cougars have proved one thing over the season, it’s that they don’t give up.
“We have to use (the loss) and turn it around as fuel to get better,” Davies said. “All we can worry about is our next game. We can’t look past anybody now.”
The remaining five games will be more important than ever for BYU’s chances in the NCAA tournament. Coach Rose hopes to turn things around after having a tough week.
“There (are) a lot of issues to deal with now,” Rose said. “Confidence will be one of the main issues. These guys need to realize we’re a good team and they’re good players.”
BYU will welcome Portland to the Marriott Center on Saturday at 7 p.m. MST. In the teams’ previous meeting, the Cougars defeated Portland easily. The jerseys of Mel Hutchins and Roland Minson will be retired at halftime. The game will be broadcast live on BYUtv and can be heard on KSL radio.