PROVO — BYU found it hard to take down the killer of No. 7 Michigan Wednesday night when Iowa State held on for a 90-88 victory in the Marriott Center.
It was tough, very tough, even when it appeared an upset may have been in the making.
The Cougars lost freshman phenom Eric Mika to a punch in the face and he missed the final three minutes and 28 seconds; it was a stage of the game BYU desperately needed offensive rebounds. Mika had 17 points and 9 rebounds.
“It made a difference not to have Eric in there,” said BYU’s Dave Rose. BYU could have used Mika for one or two more plays.
The Cougars and No. 21 ranked Cyclones chased one another around until the final buzzer when Cougar sophomore Kyle Collinsworth’s potential game-tying clean look 15-foot shot bounced harmlessly off the rim.
It was a classic college basketball game with the Cougars racing up by 12 only to have Iowa State chip away, get a lead and hold on despite fouling out star Melvin Ejim, Dustin Hogue and having DeAndre Kane booted in the final minutes.
Officials ejected Kane (flagrant 2 personal foul) for the hit on Mika. It was a charging move by Kane to stop the Lone Peak All-American inside the paint with his hands extended to Mika’s face. Mika underwent tests late Wednesday night to determine if he had damage to his right eye orbit, retina or cornea.
The Cougars looked fully prepared to take down the Cyclones until they went cold from the field in the final six minutes of the game.
In the meantime, BYU witnessed an outstanding performance by Iowa State power forward Goerges Niang (19 points), who killed the Cougars during BYU’s offensive cool-down in the second half.
In the harried final minutes, BYU got only a drive from freshman Frank Bartley and a jumper from Haws out of its half court offense as Iowa State routinely got easy shots at the rim. “It broke our spirits a bit,” said Rose.
Despite the loss, Rose had plenty to build on from this early very tough contest. In the early going, Iowa State struggled to contain Mika. When it was apparent the Cyclones could not cover Mika with one man, Iowa State began collapsing with help. BYU took some advantage with 3-point jumpers by Haws, Matt Carlino and Anson Winder but generally speaking, the Cougars could not hit enough from outside while Iowa State did.
The Cyclones made 7 from distance; the Cougars made just 4 of 14. That, and poor second-half rebounding by the Cougars, proved the difference in the game.
On rebounding, BYU did a superior job on the boards for 20 minutes, then was out-boarded 46-44 for the game.
“That was part of it,” said a dejected Haws.
In that opening stanza, Mika scored at will over 6-foot-7 Niang and 6-foot-8 Daniel Edozie. Mika, Haws and Carlino all had 12 and combined for 36 of BYU’s 47 in a 47-42 halftime advantage.
Carlino canned a fade-away possession control clock wind-down at the halftime buzzer and laughed as he ran off the court to the locker room. It was one of those shots that looked flat, hurried and kind of dumb, but it never touched the rim when it dropped.
BYU’s big plays were expended at that stage.
When it counted, the Cougars faded. Haws made a key shot down the wire but had two jumpers blocked and lost the ball in a scrum at the top of the key twice in crunch time.
Plenty to clean up after this one.
Rose was frustrated he couldn’t get officials or his players to call a timeout with three seconds to play to set up a last-gasp shot to tie.
BYU’s main concern as players left the Marriott Center was the health of Mika. Kane may not have intentionally hit Mika, but his hand was extended on his defensive move and afterwards, officials cited the rule: A flagrant 2 personal foul is a personal foul that involves contact with an opponent that is not only excessive but also severe or extreme while the ball is live.
“In this situation we deemed the foul to be severe or extreme,” officials said in a statement to the media.
If Mika is seriously hurt, the Iowa State loss may be more costly than a painful two-point setback.
And that would be sad indeed.
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at email@example.com.