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BYU finally falters — gets needed test

Cougs enter MWC season with tough loss to Pepperdine

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MALIBU, Calif. — The result wasn't what BYU wanted, but it was the type of game it needed.

After playing seven of their previous eight games at home, the Cougars closed out their non-conference schedule on Saturday at Pepperdine. Despite a huge performance by guard Travis Hansen, who scored 32 points and grabbed 17 rebounds — both career highs — BYU fell to the Waves in overtime, 82-79.

While the loss snapped the Cougars' eight-game winning streak, it proved to be a good road test before they enter Mountain West Conference play at home against San Diego State next Saturday.

"These are the types of conference games we have," Hansen said. "This is exactly how it's going to be in the conference."

BYU (10-3) and Pepperdine (7-6) played a hotly contested affair that featured numerous lead changes, a spirited crowd and a few controversial calls.

"There're all experiences that hopefully will prepare us," said coach Steve Cleveland. "It's really disappointing to lose a game like this, but it's not nearly important a game as the one next Saturday."

In the first 90 seconds of overtime, the Cougars scored a couple of quick buckets to take a 73-69 lead. Then Pepperdine guard Craig Lewis made a long-range 3-pointer that banked off the glass.

"That was a momentum-changer," said Cougar guard Daniel Bobik of Lewis' shot. "When that sucker banked in, we looked at each other and wondered what in the world was going on."

"Sometimes you get a little bit unlucky," Cleveland said, "and you have no control over that."

That's life on the road.

Pepperdine hit two more 3-pointers in overtime and BYU could not recover. Still, the Cougars were fortunate to force OT in the first place. They trailed by three, 69-66, with nine seconds remaining in regulation when Mark Bigelow tossed up an airball that was rebounded by Hansen. Hansen dished the ball to freshman Jimmy Balderson, who nailed a 3-pointer from the corner to tie the game and send it into overtime.

Jimmy Miggins led the Waves with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Lewis came off the bench and connected on all three of his 3-point attempts, and Glen McGowan scored 13 points. McGowan was playing in his first game of the season after serving a suspension since September for punching a teammate.

The Cougars started slowly, getting down 14-6. But they climbed their way back, thanks to a 10-0 run that gave them a 27-22 lead. BYU had a 34-26 advantage at halftime. But the Cougars struggled in the opening minutes of the second half, too. They failed to score a field goal in the first four minutes and watched the Waves score 10 straight points.

Cleveland liked his team's hustle, but was disappointed with a lack of execution, particularly missed free throws and the inability to block out on a few free throws attempts.

While Hansen enjoyed a big night, Bigelow, BYU's leading scorer, struggled from the field. He made just 3 of 12 shots and finished with 14 points. Freshman center Jared Jensen missed all four of his field goal attempts.

"We don't have a lot of margin for error as it is," Cleveland said. "So when we go on the road, if we're going to beat the good teams, everybody's got to contribute."

Overall, Cleveland is happy with the way the Cougars are playing going into MWC action. "I'm not disappointed with 10-3," he said. "We've grown up as a team, we've gotten better. We've learned to compete in hostile situations. Hopefully that carries on into conference."

NOTES: The attendance at Firestone Fieldhouse (capacity is listed as 3,104) was 3,378, which included a large contingent of BYU fans . . . Daniel Bobik, who hails from Newbury Park, said he had about 60 friends and family members in attendance . . . Thousand Oaks High School quarterback Ben Olson, who has committed to play football at BYU next fall, also attended the game.

E-mail: jeffc@desnews.com