PROVO — No doubt, after a 74-64 overtime loss to Saint Mary’s last Saturday at the Marriott Center, BYU was bitterly disappointed.
The Cougars, who led the Gaels by six points with a little less than six minutes left in regulation, missed an opportunity to knock off the West Coast Conference preseason favorites.
Yet compared to the way BYU played against Saint Mary’s last season — the Gaels crushed the Cougars in all three matchups — Saturday’s performance was an encouraging sign.
Coach Dave Rose said the loss “gives us a pretty good benchmark of where we are.”
Asked to elaborate, Rose added, “We’re close. We always think of ourselves with an opportunity to compete for a league championship. These three seniors on this (Saint Mary’s) team have played 120 games together or so. We’re in a group of four, five, six, seven different recruiting classes, trying to put our team together and find our way. I think we’re doing a pretty good job of it. But it kind of showed (Saturday) with some inopportune mistakes … We weren’t able to get it done.”
BYU forward Yoeli Childs, who scored a career-high 29 points against Saint Mary’s, said his team can take away some lessons from the loss.
“The most important thing we learned was that we need to be consistent throughout the whole game,” he said. “We need to continue to take away what teams are good at. Toward the end we stopped doing that. It’s a good way for us to refocus. We were on a good streak and that’s done. We can just get into the gym on Monday and work our butts off and be ready for next week.”
Saint Mary’s displayed poise late in the game, and in overtime, that BYU couldn’t match.
How can the Cougars (12-3, 1-1) develop that kind of poise?
“A lot of it comes from experience,” said guard TJ Haws. “They have a lot of seniors on that squad. … I think we’re learning. I wouldn’t doubt us down the road.”
BYU, which saw its nine-game winning streak snapped Saturday, visits San Francisco on Thursday night in its WCC road-opener.
BROWN’S TRANSFER: Junior forward Kajon Brown announced last week he is transferring from BYU.
That didn’t catch Rose by surprise. He said that decision had been in the works for a while.
“We’ve been talking for the last month or so. The illness in the family was a surprise,” Rose said. “I think that kind of put him over the edge where he wanted to get back and spend time with his grandmother. It’s something we knew could be a possibility but didn’t know until last week for sure.”
While Brown transferred, the Cougars added freshman forward Kolby Lee to the roster. Lee signed with BYU and then left for a mission.
Rose said Lee “had a change of heart and came home” and has joined the program. He is currently practicing with the team and Rose said Lee will likely redshirt this season.
DASTRUP’S EMERGENCE: Sophomore forward Payton Dastrup continues to play a big role for the Cougars off the bench.
In 11 minutes against Saint Mary’s, Dastrup scored three points, hitting a 3-pointer, grabbed five rebounds and had two blocks and an assist.
When Dastrup was in, he drew the defensive assignment against Gael star Jock Landale, who scored 31 points.
In the past five games, starting with the win against Utah on Dec. 16, Dastrup has scored 32 points and collected 21 rebounds. He scored 21 points and had 11 rebounds in the previous 10 games.