BYU guard Alex Barcello drives for a layup against Fardaws Aimaq in the Cougars' 72-65 loss at Utah Valley University. (Dallin Wilks)

Undefeated season derailed by painful shooting woes for BYU men’s basketball at UVU

Shooting woes ended BYU men’s basketball’s undefeated season as the Cougars dropped their first game of the season to Utah Valley University 72-65 at the UCCU Center Wednesday.

The Cougars were never able to take the lid off the basket as they shot 31.9 percent from the field, 25.9 percent from behind the arc and 70.6 percent from the free-throw line.

The Wolverines didn’t shoot much better, shooting 31.6 percent from the floor, 26.3 percent and 71.4 percent from the charity stripe.

UVU was outrebounded by BYU 53 to 50, but the number that changed the game was UVU going to the line for 35 free throw attempts and making 25 of them. The Wolverines made eight more free throws than BYU attempted which ended up being the difference in the score.

Alex Barcello led the Cougars with 17 points, 11 rebounds and two assists. Spencer Johnson was BYU’s most efficient scorer of the night with 15 points on 6-of-10 shooting, with nine rebounds and two steals in the loss.

The Wolverines were led by Fardaws Aimaq who had a 20-20 game with 24 points and 22 rebounds, to go along with four assists, three blocks and five steals. Justin Harmon also recorded 24 points for UVU to go along with seven rebounds, three blocks, two steals and an assist in the upset.

First Half

Seneca Knight scored the first points of the game for the Cougars in his first start with a long two from the right corner off the skip pass from Te’Jon Lucas.

After the opening bucket from Knight, the Cougars missed their next six shots and the Wolverines missed their first seven shots from the field and entered the under-16 media timeout deadlocked at two.

Coming out of the timeout, Johnson took the lid off the basket for the Cougars, hitting an inside-out three from the right corner. Lucas turned the corner and scored on a scoop-and-score down the right side of the lane to extend the Cougar lead to five.

As BYU found somewhat of a stride, UVU made its first shot from the field with 11:57 left in the first half. Justin Harmon scored seven points on three possessions to give the Wolverines their first lead of the game.

BYU countered with seven straight points thanks to a Trevin Knell three and a steal and score from Spencer Johnson. On the next UVU possession, Trevin Knell tipped a UVU pass that was collected by Caleb Lohner for a two-hand hammer to give BYU a 16-11 lead with 8:31 left in the half.

The BYU woes continued with three turnovers and four straight missed shots by the Cougars, while the Wolverines scored four straight points to cut the BYU lead to one with 4:04 left in the opening half.

The Cougars went 9-of-29 from the field, 3-of-10 from behind the arc, grabbed 24 rebounds, tallied six assists, six steals and had seven turnovers in the first half. Despite the ugly first half, BYU took a two-point lead into the break.

Second Half

Knight opened the second half scoring for the Cougars by knocking down his first three of the game. On the next possession, Barcello knocked down his first jumper of the game to give the Cougars a five-point lead early in the second half.

Barcello scored six early points to help get BYU back on track including knocking down both foul shots which marks his 100th free throw make in his last 108 trips to the line.

A kick-out three from Knell with 12:30 to play gave the Cougars a seven-point lead, their largest lead since the 13:46 mark of the first half.

Every time the Cougars scored, the Wolverines found a way to get to the line or get a bucket to keep it within seven.

With 8:32 to play in the game, Barcello was hounded by a UVU defender, but no foul was called, making BYU head coach Mark Pope furious and leading to the former UVU head coach receiving a technical foul. UVU cut the BYU lead to three on free throws, with a chance to tie the game. The Cougar defense got a much-needed stop and a bucket on the other end to stretch the lead to five with seven minutes to play.

With four to play, Lucas made two free throws to stretch the lead back to seven. On the next possession, the Lucas again drove hard to the basket drawing a foul on former Cougar Connor Harding to earn another 1-and-1. Lucas missed the front end of the 1-and-1 which kept the BYU lead at seven.

UVU scored four straight points including an Aimaq an and-one with 2:51 to play to make it a one-possession game.

Johnson stretched the BYU lead to four by splitting a pair at the line. On the next UVU possession, Harmon got an and-one to cut the BYU lead to one with 1:22 to go in the game.

Aimaq hit a floater in the lane with 44 seconds left and after a BYU miss found a streaking teammate for a fast-break dunk to give the Wolverines a three-point lead with 17 seconds to play.

Knight drew a foul with 10.1 seconds to go and made both free throws to cut the lead to one. After fouling Aimaq, who made one of two from the line, Johnson got the rebound, and was fouled in the backcourt, but missed both free throws with 4.6 seconds left. The rebound was tipped out of bounds by UVU.

The inbounds pass went to Johnson again, who drove to the basket and banked it off the window to tie the game with 1.7 seconds remaining to force overtime.

Overtime

After Aimaq and former BYU man Connor Harding each made a free throw for UVU, Lucas and Lohner scored back-to-back buckets to give BYU a two-point lead.

Aimaq hit a top-of-the-key three to go up one followed by a UVU put-back dunk to go up three. Harmon made two free throws to stretch the lead to five. With 53.9 seconds left, the Cougars fouled another former BYU player, Blaze Nield, who made two free throws.

With another BYU miss, the Cougars fouled Aimaq, who split a pair to go up eight. Johnson hit a three for BYU, but it was too little, too late for the Cougars who played the foul game throughout the last 40 seconds of the game and lose by a score of 72-65.

The Cougars take their 6-1 record to Missouri State on Saturday in a game that will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network at 2 p.m. MST.

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