BYU’s inability to make 3-pointers and free throws and Illinois State’s ability to do so spelled the difference Wednesday night on Doug Collins Court at Redbird Arena in Normal, Illinois.
The Cougars squandered a 14-point second half lead, then fell in overtime to the Redbirds, 92-89.
“There were so many opportunities for us to close out and win this game,” BYU coach Dave Rose told BYU Radio. “That’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to find a way to get that done when we have opportunities like this. … This game was right there for us to win.”
BYU continued to struggle with its 3-point shooting, making just 6 of 28. The Cougars hit only 25 of 36 free throws. Illinois State, meanwhile, knocked down 13 of 30 3-pointers and 17 of 18 from the charity stripe.
Still, BYU (5-3) had chances to come out on top. The Cougars battled back from a six-point deficit in overtime.
BYU was trailing 90-89 with 18 seconds remaining when Dalton Nixon missed a 3-pointer. Then ISU's Josh Jefferson hit a pair of free throws. BYU guard Jahshire Hardnett missed a potential game-tying 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Yoeli Childs led the Cougars with 27 points, 16 rebounds and six assists. TJ Haws scored 22 points and grabbed eight rebounds.
“I’m proud of our effort. … We played our butts off,” Childs said. “That’s why it hurts so bad because every single player was giving their all. It just comes down to hitting shots.”
Illinois State (6-2) enjoyed balanced scoring, highlighted by Phil Fayne’s 20 points and 10 rebounds. Milik Yarbrough added 19 points while Jefferson chipped in 17.
BYU fell behind 9-3 early on but pulled even at 14. The Cougars finished the first half on an 8-2 run to take a 40-31 lead at intermission.
BYU extended its advantage to 52-38 on a 3-pointer by Childs, and the Cougars were cruising.
But from there, Illinois State consistently hit 3-pointers and free throws. The Redbirds nailed four 3-pointers over the final 10 minutes.
“We got a nice lead, then we had some defensive lapses,” Rose said. “They ended up cutting that lead down. They went to a zone, and that zone caused us a little bit of problems.”
BYU led 68-64 with six minutes left in regulation when Illinois State went on a 6-0 run to seize the lead. Nixon missed a pair of free throws with 2:18 remaining and the Cougars down four. Childs scored five straight points to put BYU on top 77-76 with 46 seconds left. Hardnett made just one of two free throws with 24.5 seconds left while ISU’s Zach Copeland drilled two free throws with 2.8 seconds remaining to force overtime, 78-78.
In OT, the Redbirds went up by 85-79 and the Cougars clawed back to the tie the game at 88, thanks in part by making seven straight free throws. But ISU wrapped up the game by sinking four free throws over the final 45 seconds.
“I hate to lose, but I can live with our guys playing hard,” Childs said. “I can’t live with our guys and myself taking it easy. But we played hard, and we gave ourselves a chance. We’ve got to be better at making plays.”
BYU visits Weber State Saturday night.
TIP-INS: Haws eclipsed the 1,000-point career mark Wednesday. … The Cougars outshot the Redbirds 40.3 percent to 39.7 percent. … BYU outscored ISU in the paint 42-22 and outrebounded the Redbirds 50-47.