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BYU basketball analysis: Why the Cougars lost to the Crusaders

The BYU Cougars didn't have enough to slow down a potent Valparaiso offense as they fell to the Crusaders 92-89 in the championship game in the MGM Grand Main Event in Las Vegas Wednesday night.

Alec Peters and Shane Hammink led the way for the Crusaders, who improved to 5-1 with the win. Peters finished with a game-high 26 points to go along with 12 rebounds, while Hammink totaled 23 points on 8 for 13 shooting from the field.

Nick Emery paced the Cougars in the loss with 18 points on the strength of a 4 for 8 shooting night from beyond the arc while adding four rebounds, three assists and three steals.

TJ Haws and Eric Mika also made solid contributions for the Cougars, finishing with 15 and 13 points respectively.


Why the Cougars lost

Foul trouble was a huge issue for the Cougars, who couldn't keep a regular rotation on the floor. Seven of the nine players who played more than 10 minutes had at least three fouls

Valparaiso took advantage as it hit 27 of 34 attempts from the free-throw line. Peters and Hammink were especially good, connecting on a combined 18 of 21.


The turning point

Holding onto a two-point lead early in the second half, Mika had to sit down after picking up his fourth foul. To make matters worse, the Cougars sat Haws less than a minute later after he picked up a technical foul.


What it means

While it's only one loss, the Cougars let a very important opportunity to get a big win over a tournament-quality team pass through their fingers.

It makes upcoming games against high-profile teams USC, Colorado and Illinois all that more important.


Grading the performances

BYU

The Cougars had one of their best outside shooting nights of the season as they knocked down 10 of 22 shots from beyond the arc. Davin Guinn was key to that effort, hitting all three of his 3-point attempts.

On the down side, the Cougars struggled to limit the Valparaiso starters who totaled 86 of the team's 92 points.

Grade: B

Valparaiso

The Crusaders forced the Cougars into foul trouble, did great work on the offensive boards and made big shots when needed on their way to the championship.

While the Cougars hung with them step for step, they did just enough to come away with their most important win of the early season.

Grade: B+


Three telling stats

Eric Mika played just 19 minutes for the second straight game because of foul trouble.

That made a huge difference on the backboards as the Cougars lost the rebounding battle 42-33, including 13-7 on the offensive glass.

Valparaiso shot 43.8 percent from the field, including 39.1 percent from 3-point range. While those numbers don't look impressive, it is by far the best a team has shot against the Cougars all year. The previous season high for field goal percentage was Princeton at 37.5 percent while the best shooting night from 3-point range against the Cougars had been Saint Louis, which shot 29.2 percent.


Up next

The Cougars return home on Saturday afternoon to take on UVU. The Wolverines are 3-1 on the season with wins over Idaho State, Benedictine and Denver with their lone setback coming at the hands of Gonzaga.

Some players to watch are former Utah Ute Kenneth Ogbe and former Cougar Isaac Neilson. Ogbe leads the team with 17.8 points per game on 63.3 percent shooting from the floor, including a blistering 66.7 percent from distance.

While Ogbe has done it from the outside, Neilson is a key for the Wolverines in the paint. He is averaging 10.3 points on 53.6 percent shooting with 9.8 rebounds and 1.8 blocks.

Jay Yeomans is a sports writer for DeseretNews.com. Contact him at jyeomans@deseretdigital.com.