BYU men’s basketball wins double-overtime thriller over Pacific, 95-87

The BYU men’s basketball game narrowly defeated the Pacific Tigers 95-87 in double overtime at home, moving the Cougars to 14-4 on the season and 5-2 in West Coast Conference play.

Mark Pope could not have asked for a more intense game for his 50th career game as the BYU head coach.

“The game was so incredibly awesome…because we won,” Pope said. “I’m so happy about that. We went through our whole lineup and everyone found a way to contribute in different ways on not our best night. The guys kinda gutted it out. That’s the real identity of this team. It’s kind of who they are. We might not know a lot of other things about ourselves, but we know that we’ll stay in there and fight.”

In the first overtime game of the season, BYU managed to put the right parts together to come away with a victory. Seniors Alex Barcello, Brandon Averette and Matt Haarms scored a combined 60 points, with Averette leading the way with 24. It was very clear after the game that the Cougars were fighting for a lot more than just a win. 

“We understand the situation we’re in now,” Averette said, speaking of the team’s NCAA tournament chances. “The tough loss to Pepperdine kind of put us in a tough spot and it’s put a lot more pressure on these tight games. We don’t want to drop a game like that. We for sure feel that pressure and I feel like that definitely added to our spark to come out and keep battling.”

The Cougars started off the first half going 4-of-6 from 3-point land. To make things more surprising, two of those shots came from big men Haarms and Colby Lee, who are more known for spending time in the paint. The other two threes came from Averette, propelling BYU to a quick 16-9 lead in the first four minutes.

The Cougar 3-point party continued in the following minutes. Junior forward Gideon George hit a long shot from beyond the arc to put the score at 23-16 with 12:06 left in the first half. 

BYU’s strong start did not last, however. Pacific went on a scoring frenzy for the next four minutes, scoring nine-straight points and giving the Tigers their first lead of the game, 25-23.

Both teams fought hard and exchanged baskets for the remainder of the half. Averette hit a big three to put the Cougars back up, 31-30, with 37 seconds left in the half. Pacific’s Daniss Jenkins was unfazed and hit a clean jumper to give the Tigers the 32-31 lead going into halftime.

Connor Harding defends against Pacific on Jan. 30 in the Marriott Center. Harding had a game-high three steals against the Tigers. (Preston Crawley)

Pacific started the second half carrying over momentum from the first. Finstuen scored three quick points to give Pacific its largest lead of the game thus far, 34-31.

BYU managed to put together a couple of baskets in a row, capped off by a timely three from Connor Harding to retake the lead, 38-35.

And the Cougars weren’t done. Averette picked up right where he left off in the first half, hitting another huge 3-pointer to put the score at 43-39 with 13:22 left to play. Not long after, Barcello pulled off a beautiful over-the-shoulder pass to Haarms for a dunk.

The score seesawed between the teams over the next several minutes. Each time it felt like a team might be mustering some momentum, the other group scored. The game was tied at 64 with just 52 seconds left and Pacific missed a shot to take the lead late.

After a decisive timeout, freshman Caleb Lohner was fouled with an opportunity to win the game with his free throws. Lohner missed both, however, sending the game to overtime.

It was a slugfest to start the extra period. Neither team could get a leg up on the other, much like the second half. BYU had a couple of opportunities to take the lead and end the game with some free throws, but was unable to hit them.

Pacific went up 75-73 with 23 seconds left in the period and it looked like it could be over. Then, with very little resistance, Barcello swept past the defense in just four seconds and hit a huge layup to tie up the game and send it to a second overtime.

Alex Barcello takes a free throw at the Marriott Center against Pacific on Jan. 30. Barcello and BYU made eight-straight free throws in the second overtime period to secure a win. (Preston Crawley)

Haarms hit a quick two just two seconds into the second period, setting the tone for the final five minutes. The Cougars’ sense of urgency increased from that point, and they scored four additional points to put them up 84-80 with just 3:14 left in the period.

Barcello and Haarms were then able to knock down four free throws in a row, widening the lead to seven points, 88-81.

The Tigers seemed to be delaying the inevitable from there. Averette hit a long three to put the Cougars up 91-83 with just 1:31 left and the Tigers’ remaining fight dissipated. After a few free throws from Pacific, Barcello was able to dribble out the remainder of the clock, sealing the Cougars’ victory over the Tigers, 95-87.

Barcello hinted at the key to their victory after the game. “We said the same thing coming into every huddle: ‘We need to keep our fight and we need to stay hungry. Eventually, they’re going to break, and we’re not going to break. We’re too tough, and we’ve worked too hard.’ We just kept telling ourselves, ‘We’re going to win this game.’ We play basketball because we love those moments.”

The Cougars will look to keep the momentum going on Tuesday, Feb. 2 as they play at San Diego for the first time this season.

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