Cougars fail to close against San Francisco

TJ Haws tosses up a prayer from just over the half court line in a game against San Francisco Feb. 22, adding to his 25 points on the night. (Claire Gentry)

The Cougars could not hold onto their momentum — including a 14 point lead with eight minutes left — and fell to the visiting San Francisco Dons in a dramatic 77-71 affair with the conference two seed on the line.

Claire Gentry
Yoeli Childs shoots one of his nine free throws during the Cougars’ 77-71 loss to San Francisco. Childs had a game-high 28 points against the Dons. (Claire Gentry)

Turnovers ultimately caused the Cougars’ demise, coughing the ball up to the Dons 14 times over the course of the evening with five coming in the three minutes following their 14 point lead.

“The last eight minutes was probably as dysfunctional as we’ve looked for a while,” BYU head coach Dave Rose said. “We turned the ball over uncharacteristically, with live ball turnovers where they could go down and score layups. When we go back and look at the film, I think we’ll see that a lot of our mistakes were created by our own lack of execution”

The Cougars established an offensive rhythm early, shooting 56 percent from the field with a 38-34 lead in the first half. However, the tables quickly turned with a paltry 3-12 showing from behind the arc in the second half and making just one of nine shots in the game’s final eight minutes. San Francisco took advantage of BYU’s fatigue and pounced with a 10-0 scoring run late in the half to take the lead.

“They just had energy,” said BYU guard Zac Seljaas. “They were making shots and they had the momentum. We couldn’t get a shot to fall to stop them. They were rolling and that’s hard to go against a team with that kind of energy.”

Forward Yoeli Childs led the Cougars with 28 points and 14 rebounds. Guard TJ Haws added 25 points but turned the ball over five different times. Forward Gavin Baxter recorded five blocks to accompany eight points and seven rebounds while remaining starters McKay Cannon and Nick Emery were held scoreless on the night.

“We had a hard time getting the ball in the basket, but when you’re up 13, you should be able to defend to win that game,” Haws said. “We went on a run in the second half and just couldn’t keep it on them. Give credit to San Francisco, they made big shots.”

The loss snaps a five game winning streak for the Cougars and makes the prospect of earning the two seed — along with an automatic conference semifinal bid — a long shot at best, especially with No. 2 Gonzaga next on the schedule for Feb. 23.

“The beauty of basketball is you get to play another game,” Haws said. “This one is going to sting for a bit but we have to move on and get prepared for Gonzaga.”

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