BYU came back from double-digit deficits, but couldn’t hold on to the lead in its 72-70 loss in the NIT semifinals to Valparaiso Tuesday night.
The Cougars fought back from deficits of 11 points or more in five different games this season. But they couldn’t get the job done against the second most efficient defense in the nation.
“The guys played hard and played one good half,” said BYU head coach Dave Rose. “I wish we would’ve played two good halves.”
The Crusaders connected on 7-of-12 3-point attempts to lead by as many as 15 in the first half. They entered halftime with a 44-30 lead.
Sophomore center Corbin Kaufusi said Rose gave the team the lift they needed to battle back in the second half.
“He came in and was calm and said ‘You know what, we can get these guys. We can do this.'” Kaufusi said. “And I think that’s exactly what we needed at halftime. That’s what allowed us to fight back.”
Rose’s words resonated as BYU started the second half on a 9-0 run, cutting Valpo’s lead to just four points. Rose said the run felt “familiar” and gave the team confidence.
The Cougars and Valpo continued to fight back and forth for the rest of the game. BYU led 68-67 before Valpo sunk a free throw and then connected on a 3-pointer. They would add another point before the final buzzer, advancing to the NIT finals with a 72-70 victory.
BYU out-rebounded Valpo 45-42, but the Crusaders outshot the Cougars 42.6 percent to 38.2 percent.
In his final game in a BYU uniform, senior guard Kyle Collinsworth led the Cougars with 20 points, five rebounds, five assists and five steals. Freshman guard Nick Emery added 18 points and seven rebounds, while senior guard Chase Fischer contributed 16 points.
Collinsworth, Fischer and Nate Austin will graduate this year, while freshman Zac Seljaas will depart on an LDS mission.
Valpo will play George Washington University, who defeated San Diego State 65-46, in the NIT finals on Thursday.