Poor shooting against USC leads to first loss for BYU Men’s Basketball

BYU Men’s Basketball suffered its first loss of the season, falling 79-53 to USC in its first game of the Roman Legends Classic at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut on Dec. 1.

“It’s disappointing,” BYU head coach Mark Pope said. “It’s not just a loss. It’s a gut check, a reality check, and a test to see who we are. I’m really curious and determined to see if we can figure this out and respond in the right way.”

The Cougars struggled throughout the game, shooting 27.5% from the field and 23.3% from deep. BYU was out-rebounded by 15 and also had zero second-chance points.

After two empty possessions to start the game, Kolby Lee made a hook shot to tie it up at 2-2. Matt Haarms, in his first start at BYU, then knocked down a 3-pointer and the Cougars took a 5-2 lead.

A pick-and-roll with Alex Barcello and Haarms led to an easy layup and BYU led 7-4. The Cougars missed their next five shots, but Barcello broke that streak with a cutting backdoor lay-in to make it 11-9 in favor of the Trojans.

BYU then went on a 7-0 run to take the lead on a Gideon George floater, dunk by Haarms and three by Lee. Another Barcello-Haarms pick-and-roll for a dunk had BYU up 18-17.

BYU’s Matt Haarms blocks a shot attempt by Southern California’s Isaiah Mobley, right, in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, in Uncasville, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

The Cougars gave up the lead soon after, missing their next seven shots. A floater by Brandon Averette made it 21-20, USC, but BYU went scoreless in the final 4:49 of the first half, missing 18 of their last 19 shots.

The Trojans closed the half on a 14-2 run, including a 10-0 run in the final 4:24. Drew Peterson led USC in the first half with 13 points, with NBA draft prospect Evan Mobley adding nine points of his own.

The Cougars shot 9-for-37 from the field, an abysmal 24.3%, and 12.5% from three in the first half. Haarms led BYU with nine first-half points. Lee also contributed five points in the first 20 minutes.

BYU was down 33-20 early in the second half and then finally got one to go down with a Barcello triple, making it 33-23 USC. A Haarms floater made it 38-25, but the Cougras faced a 42-25 deficit with just under 16 minutes remaining.

That gap quickly jumped to 24 points before the Cougars finally got another shot to fall with a George jumper. He hit a fadeaway jumper on the next possession, but BYU traded baskets with the Trojans and the lead remained at 24, 53-29.

A Barcello three cut a 27-point lead back down to 24, with the Cougars trailing 56-32. An and-one floater by George and two free throws by Lee then brought it to 58-37.

Trevin Knell got on the board with a three, making it 62-40, and then Knell scored on a backdoor layup a few possessions later for a score of 65-42.

Southern California’s Drew Peterson, left, goes up for a basket as BYU’s Trevin Knell defends in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, in Uncasville, Conn. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill)

Pairs of free throws by George and Richard Harward then made it 74-46. Jesse Wade and Wyatt Lowell knocked down triples late, and Wade hit a free throw to close the game at 79-53.

USC had four players finish in double figures. Peterson had 19 points on 7-for-10 shooting, and Mobley had 17 on 8-for-12 shooting. The Trojans shot 53.3% from the field on the day.

Haarms led BYU with 11 points, six rebounds and three blocks. George also added 11 points and six rebounds, and Barcello finished with eight points and four rebounds.

The Cougars have a quick turnaround and will face St. John’s tomorrow in their second and final game of the Roman Legend Classic at 3 p.m. MST. The game will be televised on ESPN and broadcast on the BYU Sports Network on BYU Radio – Sirius XM 143 and KSL 102.7 FM/1160 AM.

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