LOS ANGELES — BYU opened West Coast Conference play by digging its hole a little deeper.
One week after nearly knocking off undefeated and ranked Oregon in Eugene, Ore., the Cougars took on Loyola Marymount in Gersten Pavilion to open league play. Despite significant support from a pro BYU crowd, including football player Kyle Van Noy, the Lions ripped Dave Rose’s club apart, 87-76, in a Utah kind of way.
The defeat extended BYUs losing streak to three games, with all losses coming on the road.
Freshman guard Evan Payne scored a career-high 27 points in leading LMU, which led by as many as 21 points. Veteran point guard Anthony Ireland added 14 points with nine assists as Payne and Ireland disrupted BYU’s defense and offense all game-long.
The Cougars dropped to 8-6 (0-1) while the Lions climbed to 9-4 (1-0). BYU plays at Pepperdine on Monday, its 19th day away from the Marriott Center. In that span, the Cougars are 0-3.
“I thought they played really well. LMU was good from start to finish,” said BYU coach Dave Rose
LMU raced to a 17-5 lead and never was seriously challenged the rest of the game. The Cougars couldn’t control Ireland and had no clue how to stop Payne. BYU trailed 48-33 at half. It hasn't come back from a double-digit deficit all year.
“They kind of jumped us there,” said Rose. “We had a hard time making baskets early and they got the lead. Those two guards were really good and controlled the game from there."
Kyle Collinsworth led the Cougars with 18 points and a team-high eight boards. When the Cougars did make a serious run to get within 12 points in the second half, it was Collinsworth who scored seven straight.
At an early BYU timeout, Rose told his guys to “wake up and play hard,” according to Collinsworth.
But bad starts at Utah and at LMU doomed the Cougars, and nobody knows why.
“I don’t know. It's tough to say,” said Collinsworth. “We need to play harder than our opponent and that’s not what we did when we first came out. We need to play harder at all times than our opponent at all times.”
Freshman Eric Mika scored 17 points on 7-of-11 shooting, but played only 26 minutes due to foul trouble. That impacted BYU's strategy.
“I don’t know why the bad start,” said Mika. “Maybe we’re not … I don’t think anyone knows, whether it is a focus issue or a mental or physical issue. It's not OK and we can’t let it happen again.”
“We got a run (with Collinsworth) and couldn’t sustain it,” said Rose of when BYU cut LMU’s lead to 54-40 and 76-63 in the second half.
LMU outscored BYU by four on the free-throw line, 15 from distance, and five points on second-chance points.
LMU did a good job pressuring BYU star Tyler Haws, limiting him to 4-of-15 shooting for 11 points. Matt Carlino added 13 and Frank Bartley came off the bench to lead the team with four assists.
Haws, the league's leading scorer and top marquee player, didn't get to the free-throw line until 7:37 remained in the game. On the other hand, LMU's freshman, Evans, shot 12 free throws.
“Payne is really good with the ball,” said Rose. “They isolated us really well, attacked, got to the free-throw line, hit big 3s and controlled the pace. They did a good job on Ty,” said Rose.
"We did a good job of keeping their fast-break points down (11)," said LMU coach Max Good. "They kill people with fast-break buckets. In the second half we needed to work the clock. I almost didn't care if we held it for 35 seconds and threw it in the upper deck so they couldn't get fast break baskets."
“At the end of the day, we just gotta play,” said Collinsworth. “We came out the first four minutes and struggled and it set the tone. We have to do a better job of that.”
Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.