Matt Haarms, left, and other Cougars celebrate the win over Pepperdine on Jan. 23. Haarms led the way in a road win over LMU with 21 points and five blocks. (Addie Blacker)

Haarms and Lohner dominate for BYU men’s basketball in 88-71 win at LMU

The BYU men’s basketball team demolished the Loyola Marymount Lions 88-71 in Los Angeles on Saturday, moving to 17-5 on the season and 8-3 in West Coast Conference play, in addition to a jump in the national KenPom rankings from 27 to 18.

Senior transfer Matt Haarms was dominant in the paint, leading the Cougars in scoring with 21 points to go along with three assists and a whopping five blocks. Freshman Caleb Lohner followed up his impressive performance at Pacific with yet another big game, finishing the game with 18 points, seven rebounds and two assists.

“Matt Haarms was just off-the-charts tonight in every facet of the game,” BYU head coach Mark Pope said. “It makes the game really easy when you can just say, ‘Pass it to Matt and let him go score’. I’m super proud of my guys, I thought they played terrific tonight.”

The Cougars got off to a hot start, capping off a 13-2 run with a classic mid-range jumper from Alex Barcello. The trend only continued over the next few minutes, with guard Spencer Johnson hitting a tough shot from beyond the arc to put the Cougars up 22-7 with 12:45 remaining in the first half.

It would be remiss to discuss the first half without mentioning the block party put on by Haarms. The big man tallied four blocks in the first half, three of which came in the first few minutes. Richard Harward also helped in the paint with a block of his own.

Senior transfer Brandon Averette also made key contributions, hitting a clutch 3-pointer to put the BYU lead at 31-14 to go until halftime.

BYU only took smart shots for the remainder of the half, including several more mid-range jumpers from Barcello. The Cougars also dominated from the stripe, going 13-of-15 on their first-half free throws.

In fact, the half finished with a pair of free throws from Averette, putting the score at 47-25 going into the locker room.

The Cougars kept the momentum going into the second half. Just minutes in, Barcello hit yet another clean jumper to put BYU ahead by 21, 53-32.

As the half progressed, it became abundantly clear that the Cougars could handle anything the Lions threw at them. Any time LMU seemed to be mustering some momentum, the Cougars responded with a three or big shot of their own. 

The nail in the coffin occurred with 11:36 left on the game clock. Haarms posted up deep in the paint and hit a clutch baby hook over an LMU defender. As the lead grew to 30 at 66-36, the 7-foot-3 Haarms looked up at the jumbotron and admired his technique in the replay, shrugging nonchalantly.

Junior guard Trevin Knell joined in on the action, putting up a long three with 4:01 left to extend the Cougars’ lead, 84-53.

The Lions were not quite done, however. Surging late, they scored 15 straight points to bring them within 16, with just 1:58 on the game clock. 

The last two minutes seemed to last a lifetime, as LMU insisted on fouling BYU on every possession. Despite these last-minute efforts, the Cougars ultimately emerged victorious, 88-71.

“We should have won by 30 tonight, no doubt in my mind, ” Haarms said. “We should have just sustained that lead, we had all the tools out there. Against a good team, that could be an issue, so we’ve got to work on some stuff, but ultimately I’m proud of the guys.”

BYU will return home to play San Francisco on Thursday, Feb. 25. The game will be broadcast live on CBS Sports Network.

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