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Just how damaging was BYU’s loss to Santa Clara?

Saint Mary’s could now have the inside track to second place in the West Coast Conference after Thursday’s results

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BYU players warm up for game against Pacific at the Marriott Center in Provo on Jan. 6, 2022.

BYU players warm up for game against Pacific at the Marriott Center in Provo on Jan. 6, 2022. After a tough loss to Santa Clara on Thursday, the Cougars travel to Stockton, Calif., to take on the Tigers Saturday, hoping to get back on track.

Nate Edwards, BYU Photo

SANTA CLARA — With about 45 seconds remaining in the game, BYU had a 90% chance of beating Santa Clara Thursday night at the Leavey Center, according to KenPom.com and ESPN.

That made sense — the Cougars led by four points and had the ball at that point.

But BYU (17-5, 5-2) fell apart and the Broncos rose up the rest of the way. Santa Clara outscored the Cougars 7-2 during that final stretch and earned a dramatic 77-76 victory.

It was an entertaining game with 22 lead changes and 13 ties, while both teams’ largest lead was just four points. 

So how much did this loss hurt BYU from a West Coast Conference standings and metrics standpoint?

Earlier Thursday, Saint Mary’s rallied from a 23-point deficit to knock off San Francisco at War Memorial Gym. Matthias Tass scored a career-high 27 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to help the Gaels beat the Dons 72-70.  

Saint Mary’s (16-4, 4-1) has won four straight games since losing to BYU on Jan. 8 in Provo. USF (16-5, 3-3) has blown double-digit second-half leads at home against both BYU and Saint Mary’s this season.

Right now, the Gaels, who host Pepperdine Saturday, could have the inside track to the No. 2 spot in the WCC standings. The team that finishes second in the final standings earns a bye all the way to the Monday semifinals in the WCC Tournament at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas in March. 

So that puts some added pressure on the Cougars, who visit Pacific Saturday (7:30 p.m. MST, ESPNU). Next week, BYU hosts San Francisco and No. 2 Gonzaga. The Cougars visit Saint Mary’s on Feb. 19.

How much of a difference did Thursday’s outcomes make in the WCC standings? Had BYU won and the Gaels lost, the Cougars would have been 6-1 and Saint Mary’s would have been 3-2.

Meanwhile, BYU dropped only one spot, from No. 28 to No. 29, in the NCAA’s NET rankings Friday morning and remained entrenched at the No. 23 spot in the KenPom.com ratings.

Saint Mary’s vaulted from No. 29 to No. 23 in the NET while Santa Clara jumped up from No. 85 to No. 81 after beating BYU. 

The Cougars are 3-1 in Quad 1 games and 6-4 in Quad 2 games this season. Thursday’s loss counts as a Quad 2 setback.

BYU is still a No. 8 seed in ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s projections released Friday morning. 

Lunardi still has four WCC teams making the Big Dance — with Gonzaga as a No. 1 seed; Saint Mary’s a No. 10 seed and USF a No. 11 seed.