BYU men’s basketball loses close game at Pepperdine, 76-73

The BYU men’s basketball team lost a heartbreaker in Malibu to the Pepperdine Waves, 76-73, on Wednesday, moving to 13-4 on the season and 4-2 in West Coast Conference play.

Despite leading for most of the game, the Cougars could not put together the defensive stops necessary to finish the job. BYU had multiple chances to regain the lead in the final minutes, but costly turnovers ultimately determined the final outcome of the game. 

“That’s a credit to Lorenzo (Romar) and his team and just how they prepared and how they approached the game. It was an unbelievable effort on their part,” BYU head coach Mark Pope said. “This game always tells you the truth. It doesn’t care what you did last play or next play or last game or next game. It just matters what’s going on right now. We just couldn’t figure it out.”

Sophomore guard Spencer Johnson led the Cougars with 15 points on of 6-of-8 shooting from the field, 2-of-3 from beyond the arc, and 1-of-1 from the free throw line. He was also the DUNK (Daily Universe Net King) Player of the Game with a rating of 22.48. Alex Barcello and Caleb Lohner joined Johnson in the double digits, tallying 12 and 11 points, respectively.

Spencer Johnson was the DUNK Player of the Game against Pepperdine on Jan. 27 with a 22.48 rating. He had two big steals and a crucial game-tying three late in the game. (Graphic by Sydney Fleming)

“I felt good,” Johnson said. “They were helping really heavy from the weak side gaps. Guys were doing really good penetrating and then dishing it out. I felt good, I felt confident seeing those shots go in. But in the end, it was tough.”

The Cougars were hot out of the gate, jumping out to a quick 11-3 lead in just five minutes. Then the Waves came alive. Pepperdine capped off a 12-4 run with a layup by guard Sedrick Altman, bringing the contest to a tie at 15-15 with 8:38 left to play in the first half. 

The game continued to be tight for the remainder of the half, with the teams exchanging lengthy runs. The Cougars kept the Waves from taking the lead, however, and managed to finish off the half with a narrow five-point advantage, 37-32.

BYU kicked off the second half much like the first, with a dominant run. In less than two minutes, the Cougars had extended the lead to 11, their largest lead of the game. Although still early in the final half, it looked to be a routine win for the Cougars.

It turned out to be anything but routine. Pepperdine went on a crucial 13-2 run to tie up the game once again at 46. From there, it wasn’t long before the Waves had their first lead of the game, going up 49-48 on a pair of free throws from Colbey Ross.

The teams were neck and neck over the next several minutes, changing leads in seemingly every possession.

The momentum seemed to be swinging the Cougars’ way after Johnson hit a big 3-pointer to tie the game at 71 with 2:08 left in the game.

Spencer Johnson takes a free throw against Pepperdine on Jan. 23 in Provo. Johnson had a team-high 15 points against the Waves on the road on Jan. 27. (Addie Blacker)

But the momentum didn’t last. BYU turned the ball over on a crucial possession with the game tied at 73 to allow the Waves to extend their lead to 76-73 with 17 seconds left. 

Barcello had a couple of opportunities in the final seconds to send the game to overtime with a three, but ultimately fell short.

“It’s the worst to lose, it’s just the worst,” Pope said. “Our guys deserve better, so we’ll, as a staff, get together and get back to work and figure out some better answers. We’ve just got to be better for our boys.”

The Cougars will look to rebound from this difficult loss next week at San Diego on Tuesday, Feb. 2.

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