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BYU has not lost two in a row under coach Mark Pope. Here’s how the Cougars have responded after setbacks

BYU has proven to be adept at bouncing back as it prepares for 50th game with Pope at the helm

BYU coach Mark Pope speaks with an official during game against Gonzaga in Spokane, Wash., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. The Cougars fell to the Zags but have yet to lose back-to-back games during the Pope era. That mark will be put to the test Saturday afternoon when Pacific visits the Marriott Center.
Young Kwak, Associated Press

BYU is set to play its 50th game under coach Mark Pope on Saturday.

With Pope at the helm, the Cougars have lost only 12 games. Remarkably, they have never lost two in a row under Pope.

That streak will be put to the test once again when BYU hosts Pacific Saturday (4 p.m. MST, CBS Sports Network) in Provo.

The Cougars (13-4, 4-2) dropped a painful 76-73 decision last Wednesday at Pepperdine.

“We have to look within ourselves and respond,” forward Kolby Lee said after the game.

That’s what the resilient BYU program has done on every occasion after a loss since the start of the 2019-20 season. Here’s a look at each of the Cougars’ setbacks the past two seasons and how they responded:

Nov. 9, 2019BYU lost 76-71 decision at home to San Diego State, which ended up posting a 30-2 record and was projected to be as high as a No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

What happened next: The Cougars won their two next games, at home against Southern Utah, and on the road at Houston. Guard TJ Haws knocked down a buzzer-beating jumper to knock off Houston, which would go on to record a 23-8 mark on the season.

Nov. 20, 2019BYU fell 72-68 in overtime at Boise State.

What happened next: The Cougars traveled to Hawaii and beat UCLA in their first game of the Maui Invitational. That was followed by a loss to No. 4 Kansas before wrapping up the Maui Invitational with a win over Virginia Tech.

Dec. 4, 2019 — In Yoeli Childs’ first game of the season after serving an NCAA-imposed nine-game suspension, the Cougars squandered a 16-point second-half lead against Utah. Childs missed much of the second half due to leg cramps. The Utes won 102-95 in overtime.

What happened next: BYU won six straight games — against UNLV, Nevada, Utah State, Weber State, Oral Roberts and Loyola Marymount.

Jan. 9, 2020 — At Saint Mary’s, the Cougars again found themselves without Childs, who broke his finger earlier in the week. BYU pushed the Gaels to the limit but ultimately fell 87-84 in overtime.

What happened next: The Cougars beat Portland and San Diego at home.

Jan. 18, 2020 — BYU played at No. 1 Gonzaga without Childs, who was still dealing with the finger injury. The Zags blasted the Cougars, 92-69.

What happened next: In Childs’ first game back after the injury, BYU beat Pacific on the road. Childs scored 26 points and grabbed nine rebounds while Jake Toolson poured in a game-high 28 points and hit four 3-pointers during a 21-0 run in the 74-60 victory.

Jan. 25, 2020In an 83-82 loss at San Francisco, BYU watched the Dons go on a 21-0 run in the second half, erasing a 14-point Cougar lead.

What happened next: BYU won nine consecutive games against Pepperdine, Saint Mary’s, Portland, San Francisco, Loyola Marymount, San Diego, Santa Clara, Gonzaga and Pepperdine.

That epic 91-78 win at home over the No. 2 Zags on Senior Night on Feb. 22 before a sellout crowd at the Marriott Center ended with fans storming the court. The win at Pepperdine was the regular-season finale.

March 9, 2020 — Having not played in more than one week, BYU dropped a 51-50 setback to Saint Mary’s in the WCC Tournament semifinals at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas as Jordan Ford drilled a jumper with 1.4 seconds left.

What happened next: The following week, the NCAA Tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Cougars were projected as a single-digit seed.

Dec. 1, 2021 — After opening the season with three home wins in a row, BYU traveled to Uncasville, Connecticut, and got buried by USC, 79-53, at Mohegan Sun Arena.

What happened next: The following day, BYU defeated St. John’s 74-68 at Mohegan Sun Arena.

“I’m unbelievably proud of our guys after a really brutal night with a really, really short turnaround, a lot of soul-searching and a lot of questioning and some doubt, the guys did the only thing you can — they responded,” Pope said after the game. “Very few teams get beat like we did and then have a big-time game 24 hours later and come out and have the toughness to gut it out. But these guys did.”

That weekend, BYU also beat Utah State in Logan, 67-64.

Dec. 9, 2021 — The Cougars dug themselves a 14-0 hole to start the game against Boise State and it took them more than eight minutes to score their first points. BYU rallied but ultimately lost 74-70 to the Broncos.

What happened next: The Cougars won four consecutive games. The first came at home against arch-rival Utah. Then BYU knocked off then-No. 18 San Diego State on the road. The Cougars watched SDSU rally from a 17-point second-half deficit to tie the game with 1:56 remaining. But BYU closed out the game on an 11-1 run, including a big 3-pointer by Brandon Averette at Viejas Arena.

The Cougars also beat Texas Southern and Weber State during that streak.

Jan. 7, 2021 — In a game scheduled on short notice, in what turned out to be BYU’s WCC opener, the Cougars fell behind 30-7 in the opening moments against No. 1 Gonzaga. The Zags ended up winning, 86-69.

What happened next: One week later, BYU won its first game at Saint Mary’s in seven years. The Cougars overcame an eight-point deficit and finished with a 19-2 run. Two days later, BYU beat San Francisco on the road as the Cougars again enjoyed a big second-half run, capping an impressive Bay Area road sweep. BYU then beat Portland and Pepperdine at home, bringing the winning streak to four.

Jan. 27, 2021The Cougars fell 76-73 at Pepperdine as they failed to make key plays down the stretch.

What happened next: TBD.