Seneca Knight drives against LMU. (Preston Crawley/BYU Men's Basketball)

Late free throw secures 83-82 BYU men’s hoops win at LMU

BYU men’s basketball mounted a double-digit comeback to end its four-game losing streak in an 83-82 overtime win at Loyola Marymount Thursday.

BYU’s NCAA Tournament hopes were on life-support early in the second half against LMU, but those hopes stayed alive thanks to a 17-point second-half comeback in Los Angeles.

BYU was in need of a “get right” game after back-to-back losses in Provo, including a thrashing by No. 2 Gonzaga. LMU, who entered the game on a five-game losing streak of their own, did not make things easy for the Cougars.

Luckily for BYU, senior guard Te’Jon Lucas was back in the lineup after missing the last contest due to a concussion. Lucas’ status for Thursday was in question all week, but he ultimately got the thumbs up to play.

After LMU jumped out to a 23-15 lead, Lucas and Gideon George went on a 12-2 run, giving BYU a 27-25 lead.

BYU’s two-point lead was short lived, as LMU continued its hot shooting to take a 45-33 lead into the break, making nine-straight field goals to end the first half.

“This is where we’re going to see what we’re made of,” Lucas said, speaking on the message given to the team at halftime.

The second half didn’t get off to an ideal start for BYU, falling behind by 17 points just one minute in.

The game turned around for the Cougars on the very next possession when Lucas swished a three from the right wing.

BYU proceeded to go on a 19-2 run, tying the game at 52. Lucas cashed in on three 3-pointers and scored or assisted on 15 of BYU’s 19 points during the run.

After staying within one possession for nearly all of the next 10 minutes, Caleb Lohner passed an offensive rebound out to Seneca Knight for a clutch 3-pointer to give BYU a 75-70 lead with 2:26 to play.

Just when it felt like BYU was going to escape in regulation, the Cougars let the lead slip.

LMU chipped away just enough for Eli Scott to tie the game at 76 with two seconds remaining. Alex Barcello summoned his best Jimmer Fredette impersonation with a half-court heave at the buzzer, but watched it touch every part of the rim before circling out, sending the game to overtime.

Neither team saw a lead of more than two points in the extra five minutes.

LMU’s Keli Leaupepe scored the final two of his career-high 26 points to tie the game at 82 with 23 seconds remaining, 

With BYU holding for the final shot, Knight drove down the left baseline, spun back toward the middle and faded away for a 10-foot jump shot. The shot fell short, but LMU’s Alex Merkvildaze hit Knight on the wrist to send him to the free throw line.

Knight, who was struck with a tragedy in his friend circle yesterday, stepped to the line to knock down the first free throw, giving the Cougars an 83-82 lead with one second remaining.

“I believe there is something really extraordinary and special about sports and this game,” BYU head coach Mark Pope said after the game. “(Knight) being on the free throw line, it didn’t fix anything in his life, but it’s the best thing he can do in a situation where he can’t fix anything.”

Knight intentionally missed the second free throw and LMU’s last-second desperation try came up short. 

BYU avoided a fifth-straight loss, which would have almost certainly put BYU outside the bubble of the NCAA Tournament with a small window to climb back in.

Lucas finished with 17 points and a season-high nine assists. Fouss Traore finished with a team-high 19 points and 12 rebounds. George ended a strong night with 18 points and five rebounds, including an efficient 4-of-7 from beyond the arc.

“Winning is hard in Division I college basketball,” Lucas said. “People think it’s a given just because you’re more talented than one team.”

BYU stays on the road to play at Pepperdine on Saturday at 8 p.m. MST 

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