BYU men’s basketball: Shorthanded Cougars fall to St. Mary’s 82-77

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BYU guard Chase Fischer (1) shoots a 3-pointer over St. Mary's guard Emmett Naar during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Moraga, Calif., on Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)
BYU guard Chase Fischer (1) shoots a 3-pointer over St. Mary’s guard Emmett Naar during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game in Moraga, California, on Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

The BYU men’s basketball team fell to fourth in the West Coast Conference with an 82-77 loss to the St. Mary’s Gaels Saturday night.

“(St. Mary’s) is a good team,” BYU head coach Dave Rose said. “They have a lot of experience, and in this game especially, they just wouldn’t crack.”

The Cougars knew they would have a difficult time defending St. Mary’s star forward Brad Waldow, especially without Nate Austin, who missed his 11th-straight game. Waldow particularly hurt BYU with his offensive rebounds, collecting six in the first half.

The first half quickly turned into a game of runs, with St. Mary’s grabbing an early five-point lead. BYU answered with an 11-0 run, which featured yet another around-the-back fake from Haws to score against Waldow. Haws has used his signature move to score in each of the Cougars’ past four games.

The Gaels answered BYU’s streak with an 18-4 run of their own, including the last 10 points of the half. SMC led at the break 45-37.

“They went on a little bit of a run; we had a couple of mental lapses as a team,” BYU guard Skyler Halford said. “But we came back in the second half.”

Halford indeed started the second half strong for BYU, scoring seven of the team’s first nine points after going scoreless in the first.

But St. Mary’s made a deliberate effort to run its offense through Waldow after halftime, and it paid off. Waldow scored 18 of his 24 points in the second period and became the only Division I player to average 20 points and 10 rebounds on the season.

“Waldow’s a tough guy,” Rose said. “He’s a tough guy to play against,”

The Cougars kept fighting back, cutting the St. Mary’s lead to three twice in the final minutes on triples by Halford and Chase Fischer, but it wasn’t enough. The Gaels remain undefeated in conference play, tied with Gonzaga for first place in the WCC.

BYU will have a few extra days off before it faces San Diego on the road next Saturday.

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