A career-best scoring performance from Eric Mika couldn't help the BYU Cougars overcome another woeful shooting night from the outside in a 91-84 loss to the USC Trojans on Saturday.
Mika had 29 points on 10 for 16 shooting from the floor and 9 for 11 from the free-throw line to go along with nine rebounds, but the Cougars connected on just 5 of 23 shots from beyond the arc (21.7 percent) as they fell to 5-3 on the season.
Jordan McLaughlin led the way for the Trojans in the win with 24 points, six rebounds and four assists while Shaqquan Aaron added 19 points on the strength of a 4 for 7 shooting night from 3-point range.
Elijah Stewart chipped in with 16 points and five boards as USC improved to 8-0 on the season.
Why the Cougars lost
The Cougars turned the ball over far too much, leading to easy baskets for the Trojans. They also struggled sharing the basketball, which led to contested shots that didn't drop.
On a night when outside shots weren't falling, the Cougars didn't pound the ball inside enough. Mika and Kyle Davis (10 points on 4 for 5 shooting) were nearly unstoppable in the paint but just didn't get enough touches.
The turning point
With the Cougars holding a 27-23 lead, the Trojans went on 16-5 run to close the half to take a seven-point lead. USC continued the huge push to start the second half, scoring 14 of the first 19 points to open up a 16-point lead that BYU could never recover from.
What it means
The Cougars only have a handful of chances to make an impression outside of conference play, and they let another big opportunity to slip through their fingers. They had a big early lead on a shorthanded USC squad and just didn't take advantage.
Grading the performances
Mika was a monster (again), and the Cougars did an excellent job on the glass, winning the rebounding battle 41-34.
TJ Haws and Nick Emery scored 16 and 15 points respectively, but struggled mightily shooting the ball as they hit just 11 of 31 shots.
After a terrible start, the Trojans started making shots and quickly caught the struggling Cougars. They attacked the rim for easy buckets and made some huge outside shots.
They had no answer for the inside play of the Cougars, but did a good job mixing up the defenses to try to slow down the BYU big men.
Three telling stats
While Haws and Emery combined to score 31 points in the loss, the two went scoreless in the first half on 0 for 12 shooting from the floor.
The Cougars had just nine assists on 30 made baskets while committing 16 turnovers. That is their worst assist-to-turnover ratio since the season-ending loss to Valparaiso last season.
USC held a 19-12 edge in points off turnovers in a game decided by seven points.
The Cougars return to the Marriott Center on Wednesday night to face off against the Weber State Wildcats. The Wildcats are just 2-5 on the season after a 57-55 loss to the Denver Pioneers on Saturday.
The player to watch for the Wildcats is Jeremy Senglin, who leads the team with 18.3 points a game on 42.6 percent shooting from beyond the arc.