Alex Barcello looks to shoot against Santa Clara. (BYU Men's Basketball)

Late mistakes doom BYU men’s basketball in 77-76 loss at Santa Clara

Two costly errors from BYU cost the Cougars a victory late at Santa Clara. A Te’Jon Lucas pass out of bounds and a Spencer Johnson lane violation enabled a game-winner from Santa Clara’s Jalen Williams with 0.7 seconds remaining.

The 77-76 loss dropped the Cougars to 17-5 on the season and 5-2 in WCC play, good for third in the conference. However, BYU has played two more games than second-place Saint Mary’s.

The game went back and forth early, with seven lead changes in the first 10 minutes. Santa Clara took advantage of the home court energy, getting out on fast breaks and jumping passing lanes. BYU also created problems for itself, as big men Atiki Ally Atiki and Caleb Lohner picked up two quick fouls. Fouss Traore compounded the problem by also getting a second foul before halftime. Luckily, the trio stayed out of trouble in the second half.

The Cougars led 39-37 at the half, paced by 46.7% shooting from the field. Despite only shooting 41%, Santa Clara kept the game close through eight offensive rebounds and eight forced turnovers.

Alex Barcello and Gideon George both scored in double figures in the first half and combined for five early threes. George’s spark off the bench continued in the second half, and he finished with 13 points, six rebounds and two steals. Barcello was the Cougars’ leading scorer with 20 points.

The game remained close throughout, although BYU only trailed for a total of 1:55 in the final 15:35 of the game. Despite leading for most of the second half, BYU’s lead was never more than four points.

Down the stretch, the Cougars were up 74-70 with 45 seconds left and set to inbound the ball. Lucas’ pass sailed past George and out of bounds for a costly turnover.

“I was trying to get the ball, but I was cramping. I rolled my ankle and I’m still playing through that. I wish I could have done better by catching the ball,” George said of the play.

The Broncos responded by hitting a three to cut the lead to one. On the ensuing possession, Traore grabbed an offensive rebound, putting BYU back up 76-73. The basket gave Traore his third-straight double-double. He had 10 points and 15 rebounds against the Broncos.

With only 15 seconds left, Santa Clara elected to take a quick basket, again putting BYU’s lead back to one with eight seconds remaining. Johnson was fouled on the ensuing inbound play. Shooting the front end of a one-and-one, Johnson saw his shot was going to miss and committed a lane violation going after the rebound.

On the inbound, Santa Clara’s Williams took the ball the length of the floor and hit the game-winner with 0.7 seconds left. With no timeouts remaining, BYU was forced into a desperation heave, with Lucas’ shot coming up short.

The lucky fans allowed to attend the 25% capacity game (due to COVID-19 restrictions) rushed the court to celebrate Santa Clara’s first win against BYU since Jan. 26, 2017.

“We had no answer for them, we felt small. We had a lot of holes that were uncharacteristic of us,” BYU head coach Mark Pope said after the game. “This Santa Clara team is a good team. Their starting lineup is veteran, but still disappointing on our end.”

BYU will have a chance to rebound this Saturday at Pacific. The game tips at 7:30 p.m. MST on ESPNU.

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