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BYU's loss to Colorado State has a familiar ring

It's like watching "It's a Wonderful Life" for the 20th straight Christmas or hearing someone sing "Feelings" again on karaoke night. Like having a friend say, "I love you, man!" and laugh uproariously one more time.

The BYU Cougars are in need of a new story line.Thursday night at Moby Gym, the Cougars lost 83-74 to Colorado State after - surprise! - a long stretch in the second half without a field goal.

For the Cougars, it continues to be business as usual. A good first half, in which they stay close, a slow start on the second half, and finally, a mid-second half lapse that puts the game out of reach.

"Not a lot different," said BYU coach Steve Cleveland. "We can't score for periods of time."

Second-half lapses have been the Cougars' calling card all year. The only variance is how the opposing team gets its points. The Cougars enter the second half close and confident, then go through a 6-10 minute spell in the in which they either go scoreless or only score only from the free throw line. Meanwhile, the other team moves from a modest lead to a commanding one.

This time the Cougars' problems were brought on by CSU guard Jameel Mahmud, who landed three straight three-point shots. When he was finished, the Cougars were down by eight, rather than three, and the Rams were ready to pull away.

"Without Mahmud hitting at the right time, it's a close game," said Cleveland. "We've got to give up something and tonight we decided to try to stop their big guys inside. But until we get to the point in our program where we can go man to man, it's going to be that way. We gave up the perimeter tonight, and if their shots hadn't been there, it goes right down to the wire."

As it was, the shots were there. The Rams shot 55 percent from the field, 44 percent from 3-point range. Mahmud, who had a game-high 24 points, started CSU on a run in that didn't stop until the Rams had the lead up to 18 points with 6:26 remaining.

BYU came at the Rams with a cast of thousands, getting threes from Ron Selleaze, Brian Dignan, Danny Bower, Brian Hamilton and Justin Weidauer in the first half. Trailing 40-35 at the break, Dignan's layup with 16:41 remaining pulled BYU within three. His shot followed a Bret Jepsen slam. Fired up at the prospects of actually being in position to win, Selleaze rushed over to Jepsen during a timeout and shouted, "You can do that every time! You can do that EVERY time!"

Maybe not. There were no more slams from anyone and precious few baskets. Soon to follow was Mahmud's three straight treys and the Cougars were back in their old position, expending energy on the defensive end and having little left over to score points.

Still, the way the Cougars continue to lose amazes even Cleveland. Danny Bower made a shot with 13:50 to go, but BYU didn't get a field goal for nearly five minutes. Then they went five more minutes without a field goal before Dignan broke the slump.

"No theories," said Cleveland. "We were always playing catchup. There is a lot of energy expended on one end of the court and it takes its toll eventually on the other."

Added forward Mekeli Wesley, "It's like there's a lid on the basket. The ball rolls and rolls and pops out. I don't know why. We just need to take the lid off it off and throw it in the trash."

The loss didn't help BYU's hopes of making the WAC Tournament. The Cougars are now in last place in the WAC's Mountain Division (1-8 and 6-18), a game behind Air Force and two behind UTEP. But with five games remaining, Cleveland hasn't bagged plans yet.

"The good news," said Cleveland, "is I really believe that in the four or five remaining games, we have a chance to win any one of those. We have two games left at home and games at Wyoming, New Mexico and UTEP. All of those we have the opportunity to win."

But first he has to figure out how to get a different finish on what has become a very old story.