LAS VEGAS — A chorus of boos from the pro-BYU crowd at Orleans Arena greeted San Francisco guard Jamaree Bouyea’s unnecessary last-second dunk Saturday night, an exclamation point on the Dons’ 75-63 win over the Cougars that pretty much assures the 24-8 team a berth in the NCAA Tournament.

But neither Bouuyea nor USF coach Todd Golden apologized for it.

In fact, Golden said, “I might have told him to go dunk it as well” in the postgame interview room, when Bouyea was asked why he went through with the dunk that, in most circles, would be considered unsportsmanlike. 

“You know, when we played at BYU (a 73-59 USF win) they kinda said some things. … It was a little chippy in the game, and kinda physical, went kinda sideways a little bit. So I think that was kinda personal and I just went for the dunk at the buzzer.” — San Francisco guard Jamaree Bouyea.

Is there bad blood between the programs?

Bouyea, who was assessed a technical foul for hanging on the rim after the dunk, seemed to indicate that there is, at least from San Francisco’s perspective.

Golden said there isn’t, noting that he has tons of respect for BYU coach Mark Pope and his staff.

The dunk “was kinda personal,” said Bouyea, who finished with 18 points, six rebounds and four assists.

“You know, when we played at BYU (a 73-59 USF win) they kinda said some things. … It was a little chippy in the game, and kinda physical, went kinda sideways a little bit. So I think that was kinda personal and I just went for the dunk at the buzzer,” said Bouyea, a senior from Seaside, California.

Asked about the finish when it was his turn to address the media, BYU’s Pope brushed the question off and said if the Cougars don’t want that kind of stuff to happen, they should win the game.

Golden, whose team will meet No. 1 seed Gonzaga in one of Monday’s semifinals, said emotions were high because so much was on the line.

“There is no bad blood. It is two really good programs, competing at the same high level, that are going to play all 40 minutes of the game,” he said.

“I would expect them to do something similar. Not bad blood, but when one of my guys has an opportunity to put a huge exclamation mark on a huge win for our program, one that is probably one of the biggest wins in the last 35 years (it’s understandable). It secures our tournament bid.”

Golden said the Dons “left no doubt tonight” that they deserve to be in the Big Dance. The only question that remains, he said, is whether or not they are wearing home or road jerseys when the tournament begins in two weeks — the difference between an 8 and a 9 seed in one direction or the other.

“We controlled the game after the first four minutes,” Golden said, nodding toward Bouyea and fellow guard Kahlil Shabazz, who was just as good with a game-high 22 points.

“These two guys sitting next to me I think are the two best guards in the league, and continued night in and night out to give us a chance to win no matter who we are playing.”

San Francisco outscored the Cougars 48-39 in the second half, but the first half is where the tone was set, and where BYU faltered too much and didn’t respond well when it lost its early lead.

San Francisco’s Patrick Tape found himself with the basketball near the hoop and began gathering for an apparent slam dunk. Instead, BYU’s Te’Jon Lucas streaked by, swiped the ball and started up the court.

Then the whistle came.

As BYU’s faithful collectively expressed their disgust and Pope went ballistic on the sidelines over the call that was iffy, at best, Tape hit one of two free throws to cut BYU’s lead to two.

Related
3 keys in BYU’s 75-63 WCC Tournament loss to San Francisco
BYU gets another big opportunity to enhance its NCAA Tournament resume

Seconds after Lucas’ second foul, BYU’s Caleb Lohner missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity, and Bouyea scored five straight points to give the Dons a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the way. 

The foul became bigger when Lucas picked up his third before the first half was over and his fourth with 16:26 left in the game, ostensibly taking the Cougars’ point guard and best on-ball defender off the court when they needed him the most against the red-hot Bouyea and Shabazz.

BYU’s backcourt of Lucas and Alex Barcello combined for 26 points on 9 of 23 shooting; Bouyea and Shabazz teamed up for 40. 

That two-minute stretch from the seven-minute mark of the first half to the five minute mark, as much as anything else, doomed the Cougars.

BYU went in and out of the NCAA Tournament in a matter of two hours, according to ESPN bracketologist Joe Lunardi’s projections.

Simply put, when adversity struck the Cougars, they did not respond well.

After Bouyea’s buckets — one came when BYU fans were screaming for a moving screen — Tape and Shabazz hit free throws and Gabe Stefanini drained an open 3-pointer to give the Dons a 26-19 lead.

BYU contributed to the rally, as Spencer Johnson missed a front end of a one-and-one, Gideon George had a wild shot blocked by Tape and Trevin Knell dropped a rebound out of bounds.

A three-point favorite, San Francisco used that momentum to take a 27-24 halftime lead and then poured it on in the second half, when it clearly outplayed a BYU team that entered the tournament game having won 15 of its last 20 meetings with USF, including four of the last five.

With BYU football coach Kalani Sitake watching from the front row across from USF’s bench, the Cougars were outmuscled by a team they edged 71-69 in San Francisco on Jan. 15.

San Francisco won the rebounding battle 41-37 and scored 18 fast break points to BYU’s seven, which was basically the final margin.

The Cougars are now 11-11 in WCC tournament games, all played at Orleans Arena; They certainly won’t miss the place when they move on to the Big 12 in 2023.