If someone had told BYU basketball coach Mark Pope before Saturday’s game at Kansas State that the Cougars would collect 19 offensive rebounds, get up 71 shots (including 31 3-point attempts) and commit just eight turnovers, he most likely would have predicted his squad’s eighth Big 12 win.

So what went wrong in front of 9,117 fans at 12,500-seat Bramlage Coliseum?

“I love our guys, of course, and they are taking us on an epic ride this year, and this was a frustrating night in that epic ride.” — BYU basketball coach Mark Pope

For starters, the Cougars got off to awful starts in both halves. They fell behind 16-4 in the first half before pulling even with just over six minutes remaining in the half and trailed just 42-38 at the break.

Then they were outscored 11-5 in the first five minutes of the second half and never really threatened after that.

Another key letdown was BYU’s 3-point shooting. The Cougars made a season-low six 3-pointers on those 31 attempts from beyond the arc.

Dallin Hall, Aly Khalifa and Noah Waterman missing fairly open 3-pointers to begin the game was merely a precursor of what was to come.

If there is a common thread to the Cougars’ first season in the Big 12, it is that when BYU (7-7, 19-8) doesn’t make 3-pointers, it doesn’t win.

Simple as that, and Pope was making no excuses for it in his postgame chat from the podium at Bramlage and again when he spoke to the BYU Sports Radio Network for about eight minutes after the game.

“I love our guys, of course, and they are taking us on an epic ride this year, and this was a frustrating night in that epic ride,” Pope said.

He also backed up his players’ shot selections, saying he couldn’t recall a really bad shot. His message to the team: keep shooting.

“I liked the way we were functioning (on offense) tonight. I actually liked it a lot. Like I said, our answer is the offensive glass. The guys were brilliant on the offensive glass. I don’t know how many teams are putting up 19 offensive rebounds a night,” he said.

“That’s just desire and want-to and effort, and so I liked that. I thought our ball movement was fine tonight.”

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Not only was the six 3-pointers a season-low, the 19.4% shooting from deep was also the worst of the year for a team that went into the game ranked No. 3 in the country in made 3-pointers, 11.6 per game. 

According to Greg Wrubell of the BYU Sports Radio Network, the Cougars are 19-2 this year when they shoot 32% or better from the 3-point line.

They are 0-6 when they don’t.

Pope focused on the positives, such as the 19 offensive rebounds, the first-half response when they fell behind by 12 points just five minutes into the game and the relatively low number of turnovers against one of the Big 12’s best defensive teams.

Resiliency “is the DNA of this team. We have unbelievable young men and they compete hard. They are fighting in there. This has been an incredible season. This league is hard,” Pope said.

“We are good, and we have to get better. Our guys do that. Our guys are passionate about trying to grow, and so the expectation is that we will work through this over the next minutes and hours and days. Then we come back (and play) Kansas.”

Tuesday’s showdown at venerable Phog Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence (6 p.m. MST, ESPN+) is the basketball game BYU fans have pointed to since the school was invited to join the Big 12 in September of 2021. It’s finally here. Kansas, one of the blue bloods of college basketball, will make the trip to Provo next year.

Michigan transfer Hunter Dickinson poured in 20 points as No. 9 Kansas walloped Texas 86-67 Saturday in Lawrence.

Star guard Kevin McCullar didn’t play due to a bruised knee bone injury and coach Bill Self said postgame he won’t play against the Cougars on Tuesday.

So BYU is catching a break in that regard, although McCullar wasn’t missed much against the Longhorns.

Cougars on the air

BYU (7-7, 19-8)
at No. 7 Kansas (9-5, 21-6)
Tuesday, 6 p.m. MST
Phog Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence
Radio: 102.7 FM/1160 AM

Along with the offensive rebounding and low turnover total, another positive sign for BYU was the play of Waterman and seldom-used big man Atiki Ally Atiki.

Waterman scored 12 points, two more than in his five previous Big 12 road games combined, while Atiki played almost 10 minutes to give fellow bigs Khalifa and Fouss Traore some much-needed rest and finished with six points and three rebounds.

“I was proud of some of the guys. I thought Richie (Saunders) gave us a real boost coming in off the bench,” Pope said.

“I thought Atiki gave us a real boost in the last several minutes of the game. I thought he really, really helped us. (Jaxson Robinson) gave us a boost early (before) the two fouls kinda slowed him down. … We had a bunch of guys come and play. We just weren’t good enough tonight.”