PROVO — After 35 minutes of play Saturday afternoon, BYU seemed to be on the verge of knocking off West Coast Conference nemesis, and WCC preseason favorite, Saint Mary’s at the Marriott Center.
The Cougars led by six points with 5:41 remaining in regulation when the senior-laden Gaels did what they do — capitalizing on their experience and executing almost flawlessly.
Saint Mary’s outscored BYU 25-9 over the final 10 minutes — the last five minutes of regulation and the five-minute extra session — to claim a 74-64 overtime victory before a crowd of 16,212.
The Gaels (13-2, 2-0) ended a nine-game winning streak for the Cougars (12-3, 1-1). Saint Mary’s has beaten BYU four straight times dating back to last season.
Gael center Jock Landale poured in a game-high 31 points and grabbed 13 rebounds while Cougar forward Yoeli Childs scored a career-high 29 points to go along with 10 boards. BYU's Elijah Bryant scored 16 points and Saint Mary's Emmett Naar finished with 12.
While Landale put up impressive numbers, it was the Gaels’ timely 3-pointers that ultimately made the difference.
“It came down to execution. Execution late. We had plenty of opportunities to find a way to win that game and Saint Mary’s was just better at it. It gives us pretty good benchmark of where we are,” said Cougar coach Dave Rose. “Sometimes you compete and go after it and you don’t get the results that you want. That’s kind of how you describe this game. The guys played hard. We played well enough to win. We just didn’t finish it off.”
BYU actually had a chance to win the game in the waning moments of regulation. With the score tied at 60, the Cougars had the ball with 20 seconds remaining. Bryant was looking for a final shot when he spotted Zac Seljaas in the corner. Seljaas’ 3-point attempt fell short at the buzzer.
“We called a high screen roll. We had shooters all around. I trusted that Eli was going to make a play,” said guard TJ Haws. “I’d take Zac shooting that shot 10 out of 10 times again. I thought it was going down. Zac’s a heckuva shooter. I’d give that to him again any day.”
“It was exactly the right play by Eli. He drove that thing and Zac was wide open,” Rose said. “He made the right play and got the ball there. I’ll take that shot every day to win a game.”
Saint Mary’s, meanwhile, knocked down big 3-pointers over the final stretch of the game. Evan Fitzer and Tanner Krebs hit threes in the final few minutes of regulation while Cullen Neal and Calvin Hermanson did the same in overtime.
Hermanson’s 3-pointer with 1:07 left in OT all but sealed Saint Mary’s victory. On the day, the Gaels were 9 of 27 from 3-point territory.
“For most of the game, we did a pretty good job of guarding the 3-point line,” Rose said. “They made some huge plays late from the 3-point line.”
“They’re a great 3-point shooting team. That was a big focus coming into this game,” Haws said. “They really play off advantages. They use that screen roll really well and they throw that pass cross-court. In the first half, we came out and were really tough and made things hard on them. But they continued to grind it out. That’s what Saint Mary’s is.”
In overtime, Saint Mary’s outscored BYU 14-4 as the Cougars' offensive execution sputtered.
“Defensively, we weren’t as locked in as we were earlier in the game. We were getting kills earlier in the game and towards the end, they just kept going on runs,” Childs said. “We couldn’t get that second or third stop in a row. Offensively, I was missing bunnies. Our team played a heckuva game. I’m proud of how our guys fought. I put that one on myself on the offensive end. We’ve just got to learn from it and move on to the next one.”
Trailing 21-17, BYU went on a 12-0 run to take a 29-21 lead with four minutes left in the first half. The Cougars held on to that advantage all the way until the 3:16 mark of the second half when Fitzner buried a 3-pointer.
From there, Saint Mary’s seized the momentum and maintained it all the way through overtime.
“Their execution was better. We missed a couple of shots right at the rim,” Rose said. “We got a little bit frustrated. For the most part, to start that overtime, we got the shots we wanted then we got in a little bit of a hurry, trying to make two or three plays at once. … You look at that five-minute period and they dominated that time.”
Rose added that Saint Mary’s earned the win.
“They made plays. You can give them all the credit in the world,” he said. “They executed and got the ball where they wanted and they got an open shot and they made it. That’s how they won the game.”
BYU visits San Francisco Thursday night.