LOS ANGELES — The BYU Cougars lost their third straight game Saturday night — a 87-82 setback to Southern California — but at least they showed some resolve at the Sports Arena.
The Cougars turned what could have been a laugher into a nail-biter at the end, before falling to the Trojans. They stayed in the game thanks, in part, by making 13 3-pointers — one shy of a team record — including five by Jimmy Balderson, four by Mike Rose and three by Mike Hall.
Trailing by 17 points, 53-36, early in the first half, it looked like BYU would crumble. Instead, they went on a 24-5 run over the next seven minutes and actually took a two-point advantage, 60-58, on two free throws by Balderson with 10 minutes remaining.
USC responded by going up by as many as eight points, but BYU battled back again.
Derek Dawes played well down the stretch, scoring six straight points for the Cougars, including four free throws and a bucket after an air ball by Mike Hall to make the score 78-76 for the Trojans.
With just under two minutes remaining, Rose drilled a 3-pointer to pull the Cougars to within two points again, 81-79. Then, with 30 seconds left, Balderson missed a 3-pointer.
On the Trojans' next possession, Lodrick Stewart drove in for a layup when Derek Dawes grabbed his jersey — an intentional foul. Stewart converted both free throws and USC retained possession with a 83-79 lead.
Gregg Guenther Jr. scored to put USC up by six, then Gabe Pruitt's steal and layup gave the Trojans an eight point lead with eight seconds left. A 3-pointer by BYU's Mike Hall at the buzzer made it 87-82.
USC improved to 2-2 while the Cougars dropped to 1-5. It was their third loss of the season to a Pac-10 opponent.
There was a sparse crowd that witnessed the game. You could forgive Southern California fans for not showing up for Saturday's basketball game.
Most of them were probably celebrating the No. 1 Trojan football team's victory over archrival UCLA earlier in the day. In fact, perhaps the loudest cheer of the night came when the public address announcer announced the football score.
Both teams played poorly early on. In fact, the game was scoreless for the first three-and-a-half minutes until USC's Derrick Craven's basket. The Cougars didn't score until the 14:54 mark, when BYU's Garner Meads made a layup.
Eventually, the Cougars and Trojans heated up, especially from the outside. BYU sank six 3-pointers in the first half, including two apiece by Jimmy Balderson and Mike Hall. USC drained five shots from beyond the arc. The Trojans finished the game with 11 3-pointers. The Cougars led briefly in the first period, 10-9, after freshman Chris Miles tipped in a missed free throw by Balderson. From there, the Trojans started gradually building a lead. At intermission, USC led, 44-30.