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‘We’ve got to learn the price of winning’: What attributed to BYU’s 82-74 loss at San Francisco?

Yes, it was a forgettable night for BYU in its final visit to War Memorial Gym. And it was a rough weekend in the Bay Area for the Cougars, who got swept by Santa Clara and USF.

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BYU Cougars guard Jaxson Robinson (2) comes off the court after the Cougars fell to the Gonzaga Bulldogs, 75-74, at the Marriott Center in Provo on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023.

BYU Cougars guard Jaxson Robinson (2) comes off the court after the Cougars fell to the Gonzaga Bulldogs, 75-74, at the Marriott Center in Provo on Thursday, Jan. 12, 2023.

Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

SAN FRANCISCO — To say that BYU coach Mark Pope was frustrated and disappointed after Saturday’s 82-74 loss to San Francisco at War Memorial Gym would be a Golden Gate Bridge-sized understatement.

How disappointed was Pope Saturday? Let him count the ways.

“It’s a long list,” he said. “I thought our effort and energy was not what we expect as a team. I thought we were just supremely outcoached. I felt like our fight was lacking,” he said.

“I felt like our defense really failed us. I felt like we’re still struggling out the game poorly, turning the ball over. I felt like we’re super distractible. I felt like we had no presence on the offensive glass. It’s hard to find something that we did well tonight — coaching staff, players, everybody. Not a good night for us.”

Well, that pretty much covers it, in a game that saw the Cougars trail by as many as 16 points in the second half.

Yes, it was a forgettable night for BYU in its final visit to War Memorial Gym. And it was a rough weekend in the Bay Area for the Cougars, who got swept by Santa Clara and USF. 

The Cougars tumbled to 14-9 overall and 4-4 in the West Coast Conference. The Dons improved to 14-9 and 3-5.

When asked what he attributed to his team’s shoddy performance, Pope said, “Poor coaching on my part.”

Pope spent a long time in the locker room with his players before emerging to talk to reporters after the setback. 

What did he say to his team? 

“I told them I’d do a better job,” Pope said. “Together, we’ve got to learn the price of winning, and that’s not easy. It’s part of the process we go through.”

What did Jaxson Robinson, who scored 11 points, hit three 3-pointers, grabbed five rebounds and dished out three assists, take out of Pope’s postgame message? 

“We didn’t show any fight; we didn’t show any character out there,” he said. “That’s why we lost.”

Statistically, here were the issues that led to the loss.

  • BYU actually outshot USF 51% to 46%, but the Dons knocked down 12 of 29 3-pointers and made 24 of 27 from the free throw line. The Cougars were 5 of 17 from 3 and 13 of 16 from the free throw line. 

“We started out with just a total dearth of all shell principles,” Pope said about his team’s 3-point defense. “The start to the game was surprising and super disappointing. (The Dons) got going and then they made some tough shots, which is what they do. They shoot the fourth-most amount of 3s in the country. They live on the 3-point line, they really spread the floor and they can shoot it one through five.

“We just couldn’t find an answer. We tried all kinds of different isolation coverages and all kinds of different matchups and ball screen coverages and we just couldn’t find an answer tonight. That’s just super, super disappointing.”

  • It’s been a storyline all season — turnovers. That problem reared its ugly head again Saturday. BYU had 15 turnovers, including 11 in the first half. San Francisco scored 25 points off those turnovers. 

“It’s super disappointing. I haven’t been able to help these guys find answers,” Pope said about the turnover issues. “I’m super disappointed with our lack of progress there. It’s just disappointing.”

  • The two teams were almost even on the boards. The Cougars had 26 rebounds and the Dons had 27. But USF outscored BYU on second-chance points 9-3. 
  • San Francisco guards Tyrell Roberts and Khalil Shabazz torched the Cougars. Roberts, a Washington State transfer, poured in a game-high 30 points, including 4 of 8 from 3-point range and 14 of 16 from the free throw line. Shabazz, a notorious Cougar-killer, had 21 points. Zane Meeks chipped in 13 and Isaiah Hawthorne added 10. 

Meanwhile, BYU was led by Rudi Williams. After scoring 24 points in Thursday’s loss at Santa Clara, had a season-high 28 points Saturday, with 21 of those coming in the second half.

Williams made 10 of 13 shots from the floor. 

Gideon George, who had gone 0 of 11 from the field in his two previous games, scored 12 points on 5 of 9 shooting, to go along with five rebounds. 

Fousseyni Traore notched 10 points and Richie Saunders had 8. 

But two starters, Dallin Hall and Spencer Johnson, struggled offensively. Hall went scoreless and had five turnovers in 11 minutes of action, and Johnson finished with four points but he didn’t score his first basket until the 1:42 mark of the second half. 

USF took control of the game in the opening minutes with a 10-0 run after knocking down some early 3-pointers. The Dons had four of them in the first five minutes and grabbed an 18-7 lead.

Turnovers, once again, plagued BYU in the first half. USF scored 18 points off 11 Cougar turnovers and it hit seven 3-pointers in the first half to go up 37-28 at halftime. 

BYU spent the entire second half trying to dig its way out of that hole. The Cougars trimmed the deficit to six points at 42-36, but Roberts, Shabazz and Meeks kept hitting big shots to keep BYU at bay. 

“Defensively, we weren’t there, we weren’t present and they hit a lot of 3s,” Robinson said. “And they got to the free throw line a lot. We didn’t execute.”

Did Thursday’s loss at Santa Clara have a lingering effect on Saturday’s effort?

“Not really,” Robinson said. “We’ve just got to move on. Next-game mentality. We came into this game feeling fresh and we didn’t win.”

And, as Pope said multiple times, the result was another disappointing loss. 

BYU hosts Saint Mary’s Saturday.

TIP-INS: Robinson has made a 3-pointer in 11 straight games … Traore reached double figures for the 16th time this season … BYU is now 6-2 in Saturday games this season.