PROVO — Saint Mary’s executed BYU to death Saturday night 70-57.
It took about 12 of the 40 minutes, but it was an execution.
“I think the key to the game is that they were comfortable the entire time in our gym, and that is on us,” said BYU coach Dave Rose. “We need to get ahead and speed them up, but the game went exactly how they wanted it to go.”
The 22nd ranked Gaels put on a display of consistency in coasting to a 41-30 halftime lead. Defensively, the nation’s No. 2 defense clamped down on the Cougars and made them work so hard for points, they got tired, made mistakes and were frustrated.
“When the spirit is broken, you get frustrated,” said Rose.
In the first 20 minutes, Saint Mary’s shooting hovered around 60 percent while the Cougar accuracy flat-lined at about 35. At the end, SMC outshot the Cougars 47 to 40 percent and led in about every stat but rebounding; the Cougars had a 37-32 edge.
🎥 highlights: Saint Mary's (@saintmaryshoops) hands @BYUbasketball a 70-57 defeat on Senior Night in Provo pic.twitter.com/6t8xJjeC6N— Brandon Judd (@brandonljudd) February 19, 2017
The Gaels play a brand of ball that is disciplined, and their effectiveness down the court featured smart shots and penetration that ended in crisp passes. Defensively, SMC smothered the Cougars, allowing few uncontested shots inside or out.
SMC’s ranking is legit. The Gael efficiency on display simply ate up BYU. The Cougars played with effort, and yet it wasn’t close. The Gaels' largest lead was 25.
Each time down the floor, Saint Mary’s efforts were mostly productive, rarely a poor shot or decision. Simply put, the Cougars couldn’t match the precision displayed by SMC.
It was like two guys trying to gobble up a feast and one had a garden shovel, the other a teaspoon.
Eric Mika led BYU with 18 points on 7-of-14 shooting. But his work was burdensome.
“They’re good, they’re up there with the best defensive teams we’ve played,” said Mika. “They got us out of rhythm. It goes to show they are a well-coached, disciplined team. We got rushed in the second half. Then our shots weren’t falling in the first. It’s something to learn from. Hopefully, we’ll get another shot of these guys.”
When Calvin Hermanson or Emmett Naar drove inside the paint, it was for layins or well-timed floaters for makes. SMC move the ball, the shot clock rolled and BYU had to play defense. A penetration often led to a wing guy who’d planted himself there for most the possession. As BYU’s defense collapsed, the kick-out passes to SMC perimeter shooters produced squared up, in rhythm, wide-open shots, and they made 5 of 12 (41 percent) to BYU’s 3 of 9 (33 percent) from distance in the first 20 minutes and had 10 threes to BYU’s four at the buzzer.
That’s an SMC 30 to 12 advantage from distance in a 13-point loss.
On senior night with no seniors, this Cougar team has shown potential. But to climb into a challenging position with Gonzaga generally — and Saint Mary’s this season — BYU will need time in the incubator this offseason.
It wouldn’t hurt to watch clips of Saint Mary’s execution. Daily.
TJ Haws said he was frustrated over the loss. “We can play better than that.” He said the Cougars have the attitude that if they get punched in the mouth to punch back and answer runs with runs of their own. “That didn’t happen tonight.”
How is BYU going to challenge the WCC’s top teams?
Gonzaga is running one or two NBA players through Spokane every year or two. Saint Mary’s is adopting a chunk of Australia’s junior national team annually. BYU’s got the Lone Peak Three, two-thirds of whom were in Italy or France last winter.
Rose misses his missionaries on court. Together. Building chemistry. He could really use Zac Seljaas, one of the nation’s hottest 3-point shooters last year, and he’s wearing a white shirt and tie somewhere in the Midwest today.
To chase the Zags and Gaels, Rose needs to interject his roster with a JC star or two. He’s been a master at this over his 33-year career, and it’s where his roots began. He’s got to filter his missionary comings and goings with JC guys who are hits and no misses. He needs the Keena Youngs, Rafael Araujos and Travis Hansen types.
He needs continuity and experience. And discipline.
“We had guys shooting when they needed to pass and guys passing when they needed to shoot,” said Rose.
Saint Mary’s put it all on for show Saturday on BYU’s home court.