Alex Barcello dribbles against Saint Mary's. (Preston Crawley/BYU Athletics)

BYU men’s basketball comes up short in tough road loss at Saint Mary’s, 69-64

With the season metaphorically on the line, BYU men’s basketball couldn’t get the job done in a 69-64 loss on the road to Saint Mary’s.

The loss brings BYU’s record to 19-9 on the season and 7-6 in the West Coast Conference. 

As ESPN’s Dave Flemming pointed out during the game broadcast, this was one of the biggest regular season games BYU has played in a long time. Heading into the game, BYU found itself sitting just outside the NCAA Tournament field as one of the “First Four Out,” according to Joe Lunardi’s bracketology on ESPN.

Saint Mary’s led the game from start to finish and was able to hit big shot after big shot whenever BYU closed the gap, most of which seemed to come specifically from Tommy Kuhse. Kuhse scored 20 points in the first half, helping lead the Gaels to a 34-30 halftime advantage.

BYU guard Te’Jon Lucas shoots over Saint Mary’s guard Tommy Kuhse. (Preston Crawley/BYU Athletics)

The second half looked to be headed in the same direction as the first, with both teams answering back and forth, but with the Gaels still controlling the game. BYU was able to tie the game at 42 with just under 14 minutes to go and the momentum seemed to be shifting in the Cougars’ favor.

A big turning point came shortly after when BYU found itself down by just two points with a chance to take the lead on a Seneca Knight three. Knight missed the three and came down on a Saint Mary’s player’s foot, causing him to roll his ankle and leave the game.

Over the next four minutes, Saint Mary’s grew its lead from two to 16 thanks to a 16-2 run that ultimately proved to be too much for BYU to overcome.

BYU continued to fight and claw its way back into the game, however. After a huge Alex Barcello three, the deficit was cut to three points with under two minutes to go but BYU wasn’t able to score over the remaining 1:47 and walked away with a five-point loss. 

Turnovers were again a big storyline in the game as BYU coughed up the ball a total of 17 times, most of which came in the second half. The Gaels’ defense made things tough on the BYU offense the entire night as the Cougars never really seemed to find a rhythm in the game.

The loss makes things extremely difficult for the Cougars to make the NCAA Tournament as they have now lost five of their last seven games. They have two remaining games at home against LMU and Pepperdine before they head down to Las Vegas to try to make a run in the WCC Tournament.

Barcello led the Cougars in scoring with 22 points while Knight chipped in 10 points and Caleb Lohner added nine.

The Gaels were led by Kuhse, who had a game-high 25 points, as well as 17 points from Logan Johnson.

BYU now finds itself in uncharted territory since joining the WCC, sitting in fifth place and in danger of having to play in the second round of the WCC Tournament for the first time. BYU has never finished below third place since joining the conference 10 years ago.

BYU’s next game will be on Thursday, Feb. 24, when it hosts LMU in the Marriott Center at 8 p.m. MT on CBS Sports Network.

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