BYU Forward Seneca Knight (24) puts up a lay-up against a Creighton defender during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, in Sioux Falls, S.D. (AP Photo/Josh Jurgens)

BYU men’s hoops stumbles 83-71 against Creighton

The wheels fell off quickly for BYU men’s basketball Saturday afternoon, when the Cougars couldn’t escape a 20-point pit in the first half and ultimately lost 83-71 against Creighton at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Creighton’s trio of Ryans: Nembhard, Kalkbrenner and Hawkins, were nearly unstoppable for the Bluejays, combining for 56 points, 21 rebounds and effective, disruptive defense. The absences of Gavin Baxter and Richard Harward never hurt more for BYU than they did at Saturday’s game, where the Cougars were no match for Creighton’s imposing size advantage and found themselves bullied and denied down low all day long.

“We did not respond to the physicality of the game early on,” head coach Mark Pope said. “We’ll address that and get better at it, the season’s a journey.”

The Cougars played flustered and frustrated, unable to find any sort of rhythm amid Creighton’s tight defensive effort with more turnovers than assists and being blocked on seven occasions. BYU did cut the deficit to 10 points with eight minutes to play in the second half, but quickly fumbled the momentum away to succumb to the upstart Bluejays, handing BYU its second loss of the season.

BYU coach Mark Pope reacts during an NCAA college basketball game against Creighton Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, in Sioux Falls, S.D. (AP Photo/Josh Jurgens)

While the Cougars did their best to honor former Bluejay great Kyle Korver by shooting a season-high 52.2% from three, they shot a dismal 32% from the rest of the floor. Surprisingly, BYU did win the rebound battle 38-35 with 15 offensive boards, but their shooting struggles diminished any possible value on the glass.

“We’re traditionally a great two-pointer team, I felt like we were rushed,” Pope said. “Part of that is on me, I’m preaching pace.”

Alex Barcello continued his stellar senior campaign with 28 points, five 3-pointers and four assists, while Seneca Knight had his best performance as a Cougar with 13 points and four boards.

“He makes us want to go out and fight harder with him,” Knight said of Barcello.

BYU Guard Alex Barcello (13) attempts a lay-up over Creighton defender John Christofilis (15) during an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Dec. 11, 2021, in Sioux Falls, S.D. (AP Photo/Josh Jurgens)

Te’Jon Lucas, Gideon George, Caleb Lohner, and Spencer Johnson were seemingly nowhere to be found in Sioux Falls, posting a collective 7-of-29 shooting mark from the field and nine turnovers, with only Lohner claiming more points scored than missed shots thanks to his first made three of the year.

The Cougars fall to 8-2 on the season and will most likely drop out of the AP Top 25 on Monday. Pope’s squad heads back to Utah for their final in-state matchup of the year at Weber State next Saturday in an effort to regroup prior to the start of conference play.

“We don’t look at it as a loss, we look at it as a chance to improve,” Knight said. “We’ll be ready come tournament time.”

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