For a team that had been limping into the final stretch, having lost four consecutive games, BYU’s dominating performance in a 87-61 thumping of San Francisco Saturday night at the Marriott Center in the regular season finale was the perfect elixir for the Cougars, who enter the West Coast Conference tournament this weekend.  

No. 5 seeded BYU will play in the second round against either No. 8 Portland or No. 9 San Diego Friday at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. The Pilots and Toreros square off Thursday night in the first round. 

The Cougars are relieved to have snapped their losing streak and eager to make the most of a fresh start in the conference tournament. 

“It’s always good to get back into the win column. It’s just win — period,” said guard Rudi Williams, who scored a team-high 21 points against USF. “The win right now is good heading into Vegas, get our wheels rolling a little bit. It’s going to help everyone feel good about themselves and have a good prep week next week.”

The winner of Friday’s second-round game between BYU/USD/Portland takes on No. 4 seeded Loyola Marymount Saturday night in the tournament quarterfinals. 

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How BYU finished the regular season with a big win over San Francisco

San Francisco fell to the No. 6 seed and will meet the winner of Thursday’s first-round game between No. 7 Pacific and No. 10 Pepperdine.

Against USF Saturday on Senior Night, the Cougars led almost the entire game.

Senior Gideon George set the tone early by knocking down a couple of 3-pointers. BYU hit 9 of 20 from 3-point range. Williams, also a senior, made 15 of 16 from the free throw line. 

“These guys put together an incredible performance and they led us,” coach Mark Pope said of the seniors. “That’s what we need to be successful next week. We need these guys to lead us and they can do it. And they will do it.”

For Williams, who eclipsed the career 1,000-point plateau in his Division I career Saturday, it was an emotional moment when he and George were taken of the game with 34 seconds remaining so they could be acknowledged by the crowd of 15,990. 

Williams enjoyed hearing the BYU student section chanting, “Ru-di! Ru-di! Ru-di!”

“Coach Pope stopped me and was like, ‘Soak this in one last time.’ It didn’t really hit me because I was getting subbed out of the game,” Williams said. “But when I looked around in the crowd and I heard that roar, it felt really good to me because this season has been up and down and it’s been rough but those guys that show up every night, they’ve been there, no matter what. I’m truly grateful for that.”

Now, Williams is hoping to extend his senior season as long as possible in the postseason. He and the Cougars are hoping to continue playing like they did Saturday against San Francisco. 

The key to accomplishing that is “just playing tough,” Williams said. “When we get to Vegas, whatever game we’re playing, whatever night, that’s the only game that’s going to matter and it’s the only guaranteed game we’ve got left. It’s going to carry over that we need to fight for that 40 minutes and gut it out.”

BYU, San Francisco and Pacific finished in a three-way tie for fifth place in the WCC standings. How did the Cougars land the No. 5 seed?

“Conference seeding tiebreakers for three or more teams establish a pod with the teams tied in the standings. Against the other two teams in the pod, BYU and USF posted a 3-1 record and Pacific recorded an 0-4 record,” according to a conference news release. “The Tigers were awarded the No. 7 seed. BYU and USF move through the tiebreaker process to determine the No. 5 and No. 6 seed. They split their two games against each other during the regular season. The next tiebreaker is each team’s record vs. teams in descending order of the conference standings. Both BYU and USF lost twice to Gonzaga (tied for first place), Saint Mary’s (tied for first place) and Santa Clara (third place). Against fourth-place LMU, the Dons were 1-0 and the Cougars were 1-1.

“With an unbalanced conference schedule, the number of games against an opponent may be unequal. In this case, the conference tiebreaking policy establishes that fewer losses do not prevail if the teams have the same number of wins and the team with fewer games could equal or surpass the loss total of the other team. Against Pacific (tied for fifth place), BYU and San Francisco were both 2-0. Against eighth-place Portland, ninth-place San Diego and 10th-place Pepperdine, one team recorded a 1-0 record and the other team recorded a 1-1 record. Once again, in each of these cases, the Conference tiebreaker policy establishes that fewer losses do not prevail if the teams have the same number of wins and the team with fewer games could equal or surpass the loss total of the other team. The final determination is the NCAA Evaluation Tool on the day following the conclusion of the Conference regular season schedule, which awarded BYU (No. 89 in the NET) the No. 5 seed and San Francisco (No. 121 in the NET) the No. 6 seed.”


West Coast Conference Tournament

No. 5 BYU (17-14) vs. No. 9 San Diego (11-19) or No. 8 Portland (13-18) 

Friday, 7 p.m. MST

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Orleans Arena

Las Vegas

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