STOCKTON, Calif. — Since joining the West Coast Conference seven years ago, BYU has fashioned a costly habit of dropping games to teams not named Gonzaga or Saint Mary’s, especially on the road.
It happened again Saturday at the Spanos Center, where Pacific tripped up the Cougars 67-66, thanks in part to a 22-point outing by Tiger forward Jahlil Tripp.
Trailing by one with 14.3 seconds remaining, BYU had a shot to win the game, but guard Zac Seljaas’ successful 2-pointer came just after the final buzzer.
But the Cougars probably never should have been in that tenuous position against the Tigers, a lower-tier team in the league.
After the game, Pacific celebrated the victory with raucous cheers in its locker room, within earshot of BYU, prompting Cougar guard Elijah Bryant, who scored a game-high 29 points, to observe that the Tigers were celebrating like “they won the Super Bowl or something.”
BYU dropped to 13-4 and 2-2 in the WCC while Pacific improved to 7-10 and 2-2.
The Cougars’ offense sputtered much of the night, and its defense wasn’t much better. They fell behind by seven points at halftime.
“The first half of the game, we didn’t look like ourselves. That’s probably the most disappointing thing,” said coach Dave Rose. “To be the kind of team that we want to be, we’ve got to be able to come on the road and play (two) solid, good halves of basketball. We just weren’t able to do that. In the second half, we kind of found ourselves a little bit and we connected better and were more emotional.”
Tripp scored his 22 points on 8-of-13 shooting against the Cougars, including a variety of circus shots.
“I watched him play in junior college. He’s a really good athlete and a really good finisher,” Rose said of Tripp. “He had a great game Thursday night at Saint Mary’s. We just needed to do a better job at cutting him off and make him jump up and make shots. He got so many shots at the rim where he was able to just kiss it right off the glass.”
Miles Reynolds (16 points) and Kendall Small (10 points) also hurt BYU.
“They’re a good team and we just have to be able to execute on the road and play defense,” Bryant said.
With four minutes remaining, Tripp scored eight straight points to give Pacific a 66-63 advantage with 45.8 seconds remaining.
With 15.3 seconds left on the clock, Bryant drilled a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to 67-66 before Tiger forward Jack Williams missed a pair of free throws.
On the final sequence, Jahshire Hardnett missed a shot in the paint and the ball ended up in Seljaas’ hand for a final shot — a buzzer-beater that wasn’t.
In the early going, it appeared that BYU might run away from Pacific. The Cougars hit six of their first seven shots from the field and grabbed a 14-7 lead.
From there, the Tigers controlled the rest of the half, outscoring BYU 29-15. While the Cougars made only four of their next 15 shots, Pacific shot 56 percent in the first half.
Bryant hit 6 of 8 shots for BYU, scoring 15 points over the first 20 minutes, while the rest of the team combined to go 4 of 14 from the floor. Yoeli Childs went scoreless in the first half until he made a free throw with 16.8 seconds left. BYU had three assists and seven turnovers at intermission.
The Tigers led by as many as eight points in the first half and took a 36-29 advantage into the locker room at halftime. Small had nine points and Tripp added eight.
BYU hosts Pepperdine Thursday.