Cougars fumble opportunity to knock off No. 6 Iowa State

BYU failed to ruin Iowa State’s Senior Night Wednesday, falling to the Cyclones 68-63. The Cougars turned the ball over 18 times and watched a 14-point lead slip away against the No. 6 Cyclones.

The first half started slow for both teams. There was only 13 combined points in the first six and half minutes. The Cyclones favor an ugly, defensive matchup and looked to control the pace early. The Cougars missed their first five threes, all of them wide open.

BYU immediately responded by draining its next four threes, and opened up the scoring for the game. The Cougars started getting wide open looks, meanwhile Iowa State began struggling to hit baskets. BYU took advantage with a 15-2 run, and took an 11-point lead into the locker room.

The Cougars were lead by Richie Saunders in the first half who notched 15 points on 6 of 6 shooting from the field at 3 of 3 from the 3-point line. Jaxson Robinson was also perfect from the field in the first half, scoring seven points on three shots with no misses.

BYU came out of the second half looking just as good as they had finished it. The lead grew to 14 with just under four minutes into the second half, and everything was going the Cougars way.

But this was Senior Night for Iowa State in front of a sellout home crowd, with an undefeated home record on the line.

The Cyclones ramped up the pressure, forcing turnovers and ill-advised shots. The crowd started getting into it, and you could see the momentum shift Iowa State’s way. In just eight quick minutes, we had a tie ballgame.

The rest of the game went back and forth until the final minute. Iowa State clung to a one point lead as the game entered its final minutes. The Cougars missed six shots and committed three turnovers in the final 4:24. They didn’t score again, and Iowa State hit four free throws to win by five.

BYU shot an abysmal 23.3% from the field and 13.3% from three in the second half.

The Cougars were playing with house money, and if anything this game would be what our friends in the College Football Playoff Committee love to call a “quality loss.” It truly doesn’t do BYU any harm, and quite possibly just showed that they can hang with anyone.

The problem wasn’t that BYU lost — it’s how it lost. For one of the best offensive teams in college basketball, going scoreless in the final four and a half minutes is unacceptable. The Cougars looked completely frazzled, committing uncharacteristic turnovers and failing to put the ball in the basket over and over again.

The good news is that this hasn’t been exactly a pattern for BYU. Just last week, the Cougars closed out Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse to snap their 19-game home winning streak. However, a second half like that can’t happen again, or BYU will be on a plane to Provo after the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

The Cougars close out the season Saturday in Provo. They’ll look to avenge a loss against Oklahoma State on Senior Night.

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