Los Angeles — Despite a career-high 29 points from Eric Mika, the BYU basketball team fell to USC 91-84 in the inaugural Hoophall LA on Saturday night.
The Cougars have now lost three of their last four games.
“We had just a terrible time trying to make baskets,” BYU head coach Dave Rose said. “I think there’s a lot we can learn after a game like this.”
USC started the game shooting just 11 percent (2-of-18), but the Cougars never punished the Trojans and went on a scoring run. USC finished the half connecting on 13 of its final 21 attempts and took a 39-32 lead into halftime.
The undeniable difference-maker was 3-point shooting. The Cougars shot 1-11 from 3-point range in the first half, but allowed USC to shoot 50 percent from beyond the arc.
BYU basketball settled into a zone defense for most of the first half and late rotations on a number of possessions led to good looks for the USC offense.
But that’s nothing new for the Cougars. They mightily struggled in the zone defense against UVU on Nov. 26, allowing the Wolverines to shoot 49 percent from 3-point range. On Nov. 23 the Cougars let Valparaiso connect on 39 percent of its 3-point attempts.
BYU entered the game allowing 75 points per game (No. 215 in the nation), then allowed 91 to USC.
On the other side of the ball, things weren’t much better for the Cougars. USC’s 3-2 zone defense wreaked havoc on the BYU offense, leading to 16 turnovers, including 11 in the first half.
Rose played 13 different Cougars in hopes of finding a successful lineup, but to no avail. The Cougars dished out just nine assists and never really got in sync offensively.
Rose said the Cougars played scared.
“(That’s the) first time in a long time that a zone really stopped us the way it did,” Rose said. “Tonight we were just timid and just looking for a different way to attack it than the way we work on every day.”
The Cougars shot just 22 percent from the 3-point line and struggled to get efficient production from their starting guards, Nick Emery and TJ Haws. Emery and Haws combined for 31 points, but it took the duo 31 shots to get it.
USC head coach Andy Endfield said it was all part of the Trojans’ game plan.
“Our guys took the challenge to get to their shooters early,” Endfield said. “We just don’t want to give up threes, that’s our team philosophy.”
Mika was the Cougars’ lone offensive bright spot in the game. He shot 10-16 from the field, set a career high in points and led the game with nine rebounds.
“I know I can help when I’m in there,” Mika said after the game.
The sophomore forward has struggled with foul trouble all season and had to head to the bench a number of times against the Trojans. Mika said he has to play more effectively.
“I want to be in there,” Mika said. “I know the team wants me in there. So I just have to play smart.”
With 1:10 remaining USC’s De’Anthony Melton connected on a 3-pointer, giving the Trojans a 83-77 lead. It was a tangible dagger and the Cougars never recovered.
USC moves to 8-0 with the victory.
BYU basketball returns home to the Marriott Center on Wednesday, Dec. 7 to host the Weber State Wildcats (2-4).