Matt Haarms reaches for a rebound among several UCLA players. Haarms had a double-double, but it wasn't enough to overcome the Bruins in March Madness. (BYU Photo)

BYU men’s basketball upset in first round of NCAA Tournament by 11-seed UCLA, 73-62

The BYU men’s basketball team was unable to overcome a UCLA team firing on all cylinders, falling 73-62 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Indianapolis on Saturday.

Despite playing as a six seed against an 11 seed, BYU was seen by many as an underdog in the matchup, following an impressive win by UCLA over Michigan State in the First Four on March 18.

“Congratulations to UCLA,” BYU head coach Mark Pope said after the game. “They played great today, they’re a really great team. They caused us all types of problems.”

The Bruins committed just four turnovers in the game, while the Cougars committed 10, and held BYU to just 3-of-17 shooting from three.

“We’ve been able to overcome those problems this season, but tonight we couldn’t overcome it,” Pope said. “We just didn’t get it done tonight.”

Pope’s trio of senior leaders all scored in double digits against UCLA, with Alex Barcello leading the way with 20 and Brandon Averette and Matt Haarms contributing 15 and 11, respectively.

Haarms also had 10 rebounds for a double-double, while freshman Caleb Lohner put up six points and 10 boards. The Cougars had just five assists in the game, the lowest all season.

BYU missed its first six shots in the game, but Barcello got on the board with a three to get things going for the Cougars. UCLA led 7-3 at the first timeout five minutes into the game.

The Bruins extended the lead to 12-5 following the timeout, but the Cougars went on a quick 5-0 run to bring it back within two, 12-10, and force a UCLA timeout with 11:21 left in the first half.

The Cougars cut the deficit to one, 18-17, with seven minutes to go, but the Bruins immediately hit a 3-pointer to extend their lead to 21-17. UCLA got out to its largest lead to that point soon after at 28-19, with five minutes left in the first half.

UCLA’s Johnny Juzang then hit his third 3-pointer of the first half to reach 17 points and the Bruins went up by double digits, 34-23, with under three minutes until the half.

“Johnny was a handful tonight,” Pope said of the UCLA star who finished with 27 points. “We didn’t have an answer.”

Barcello had nine points in the first half as the Cougars entered the locker room down 38-27 at the break. BYU had the advantage on the boards, 19-13, in the opening period, despite being down on the scoreboard. Lohner led all players with seven rebounds at the break.

Alex Barcello dribbles against a UCLA player as Caleb Lohner sets a screen on another. Barcello led the team in points and Lohner in rebounds at halftime. (BYU Photo)

The Bruins stayed hot to start the second half, but the Cougars started to get comfortable and went on a 7-0 run to bring it within seven, 43-36, four minutes in. Barcello was the first Cougar to reach double digits with 11 early in the second half.

“Early in the second half, I thought we really had an opportunity there,” Haarms said. “We had the momentum but we weren’t able to tie it up.”

BYU brought it within four, 43-39, behind strong play from Barcello, but the Bruins broke off an 11-0 run to re-establish a double-digit lead. After that, the Cougars were unable to get over the hump and bring the game back within a manageable deficit.

Pope had nothing but good things to say about his team after the game and how proud he is of what the players were able to accomplish after losing several key seniors last year and bringing in an almost entirely new roster.

Haarms was the only player to speak in the press conference, saying it was disappointing to end his college career like this. He said he was grateful for the season he was able to have at BYU, but it “sucks to go out like this.”

The loss marked the first time in Pope’s tenure as BYU’s head coach that the Cougars lost consecutive games, as this was the team’s first game since the West Conference Championship loss to Gonzaga.

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