Another no-show on the road for BYU’s defense on a Saturday in the Big 12, another double-digit loss tor the No. 25 Cougars.

That pretty much sums up BYU’s 84-74 loss to slumping Kansas State in front of 9,117 at Bramlage Coliseum, as the Cougars followed last Saturday’s defenseless 93-83 setback at lowly Oklahoma State with another poor defensive performance against a team below them in the Big 12 standings.

“I thought we were on our heels to start the game a little bit. But I feel like we responded well in the second 10 minutes of the first half. For us right now, on both sides of the ball we just needed to be a little bit better tonight and we weren’t quite good enough on either side of the ball to get a win.” — BYU coach Mark Pope.

BYU’s shooting also deserves some of the blame for another road loss, as the Cougars — who don’t get the traditional pregame shootarounds in these Big 12 road games with 1 p.m. local time starts — shot a frosty 19% (6 of 31) from 3-point range, including 2 of 15 in the second half.

“We didn’t shoot the ball well enough to come away with the win with all the other little things that were holes for us,” BYU coach Mark Pope told the BYU Sports Radio Network after the Cougars fell to 7-7 in league play, 19-8 overall, and probably will drop out of the rankings when the next AP Top 25 Poll is released Monday.

Actually, poor defense is not really a small thing for the Cougars. It is becoming the elephant in the room that may keep them from doing much in the postseason tournaments. It is a big problem.

Teams that haven’t been that great offensively all season — UCF, Oklahoma State and now Kansas State, to name a few — are finding BYU’s guarding woes the tonic to their lackluster scoring totals. 

BYU’s defense just doesn’t travel, for whatever reason.

“Life on the road in the Big 12 is complicated, and we just have to play better, certainly. And we can, and we will. We didn’t tonight,” Pope said.

In winning only its second game in its last nine, Kansas State (6-8, 16-11) had its second-best shooting game of the season (56%) and was 7 of 15 from beyond the arc.

The Wildcats switched roles with the Cougars after BYU’s 72-66 win over KSU at the Marriott Center two weeks ago, showing out as the team with the more dynamic offense. Go figure.

Of course, BYU’s fading defense helped.

As two OSU players did a week ago, Kansas State’s Arthur Kaluma notched a career high, scoring 28 points on 8 of 11 shooting.

He was 2 of 3 from 3-point range and 10 of 12 from the free-throw line.

“We just didn’t have any answers for this Arthur Kaluma, who was special today,” Pope said. “Letting a guy go 8 for 11 is (a) problem for us.”

So was the free-throw disparity, which is becoming a common theme for the Cougars on the road.

BYU attempted 23 more field goals than Kansas State (71-48) and made two more (29-27), but the seven 3-pointers and some consistent parading to the free-throw line carried the Wildcats. 

BYU will be happy if it never sees Kaluma, a transfer from Creighton, again this season. He put 27 points on BYU last year with his former team and 18 on the Cougars in Provo on Feb. 10.

The 6-foot-7 forward was part of the home team’s 23-10 advantage in made free throws Saturday.

Tylor Perry added 16 for KSU, after the Cougars held the Cats’ leading scorer to nine in Provo. Perry nailed a 3 after an offensive rebound on KSU’s first possession, and BYU never had the lead in the game.

It was tied only once, at 28-28.

After falling behind 16-4 on Perry’s 4-point play with 15:40 remaining in the first half, the sluggish Cougars found some life and put together a Jaxson Robinson-led 10-0 run to get back in it.

The Cougars trailed Baylor 8-0 and 18-10 early Tuesday in Provo and managed to battle back. Not this time, though.

“I thought we were on our heels to start the game a little bit, but I feel like we responded well in the second 10 minutes of the first half,” Pope said.

“For us right now, on both sides of the ball we just needed to be a little bit better tonight and we weren’t quite good enough on either side of the ball to get a win.”

Fouss Traore’s layup with 6:40 left in the first half, off a pretty assist by Dallin Hall, tied it at 28-28 and it appeared BYU had found its legs and some energy after Tuesday’s emotional 78-71 win over No. 11 Baylor. 

But KSU scored on its next three possessions, getting triples from Kaluma and Dai Dai Ames and a putback from David N’Guessan, and took a 42-38 halftime lead.

BYU is 1-4 when trailing at halftime this season, the only breakthrough coming in November against North Carolina State.

Any belief that BYU would start the second half better than the first was erased when Kaluma opened the last 20 minutes with a 3-point play.

The Cougars missed four straight free throws in the second half to keep them from getting KSU’s lead to double-digits. A bit later, they had three wide-open 3-pointers on the same possession but misfired on all three.

That started a stretch in which they missed 10 straight shots.

Related
3 keys to No. 25 BYU’s 84-74 loss to Kansas State
BYU 3-point shots go arctic cold in loss to KSU

The drought ended when Atiki Ally Atiki — one of the few bright spots for the Cougars — had a rebound basket.

Actually, offensive rebounding was also a bright spot. BYU grabbed a whopping 19 offensive rebounds, which it turned into 14 second-chance points.

Pope’s team also had just eight turnovers compared to 13 for the Wildcats, and won the rebounding battle 38-33.

They just couldn’t slow down KSU’s hot shooting.

“We had our chances. We have to play better. If we are going to win on the road, we have to play better than we played tonight. It doesn’t have anything with us being a good team or not a good team,” Pope said.

“We have to shoot it better from the free-throw line, we gotta be more efficient making shots from the field and we got to have more answers for guys that are having big nights. You gotta do that on the road to win, and we didn’t do it tonight, and that’s where we are.”

The Cougars were scheduled to fly back to Provo on Saturday night, will take Sunday off and then have a practice Monday morning before departing to Lawrence, Kansas, to take on the No. 9 Jayhawks at hallowed Phog Allen Fieldhouse on Tuesday.