Facebook Twitter

BYU climbs in NCAA’s NET rankings after blowout loss to No. 1 Gonzaga

BYU is determined to make the most of the lessons learned from that humbling loss at the Kennel in its West Coast Conference opener.

SHARE BYU climbs in NCAA’s NET rankings after blowout loss to No. 1 Gonzaga
AP21008286366523.jpg

BYU guard Brandon Averette (4) prepares to pass the ball while pressured by Gonzaga forward Drew Timme (2) during game in Spokane, Wash., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021.

Young Kwak, Associated Press

Even though No. 1 Gonzaga defeated BYU 86-69 Thursday in a game the Zags led by 32 in the second half, the Cougars jumped six spots in the NCAA NET rankings Friday, rising from No. 52 to No. 46.

That, of course, says a lot about the strength of Gonzaga, a team that is capable of winning the national championship.

Meanwhile, BYU (9-3, 0-1) is determined to make the most of the lessons learned from that humbling loss at the Kennel in its West Coast Conference opener. 

“I’m really excited about getting this out of the way, the first game of conference, because it shows clearly and glaringly some areas where we have to get massively better. ... It gives you a benchmark that’s real and tangible that you can shoot for and work toward every day. I have a locker room full of guys that will do that.” — Mark Pope

“I’m really excited about getting this out of the way, the first game of conference, because it shows clearly and glaringly some areas where we have to get massively better. You like that,” said coach Mark Pope. “It gives you a benchmark that’s real and tangible that you can shoot for and work toward every day. I have a locker room full of guys that will do that.”

Pope likes the resiliency of his players. 

“They’re not going to walk away from here crushed and discouraged. They’re certainly disappointed but they’re focused on getting better. They will,” he said. “We have a huge upside. Brutal night for us, no doubt. Incredibly disappointing. But we’ll put it in the hopper and it’s going to make us way better. We’re going to use it to make us way better.”

It’s been an interesting couple of weeks for the Cougars, who saw their first three WCC games postponed. Thursday’s scheduled game at home against Pacific (the Tigers are on pause due to COVID-19 concerns) was swapped out for a trip to Gonzaga. 

BYU is hopeful it can play the rest of the games on its schedule but there could be more disruptions. Next week, the Cougars are scheduled to play at Saint Mary’s Thursday and at San Francisco Saturday. 

Against Gonzaga, the Cougars were never competitive. They trailed 30-7 early and then tried to dig out of a giant hole the rest of the night. 

Matt Haarms and Caleb Lohner each scored 13 points for BYU. For Lohner, that was a career high. Richard Harward had 12 and Gideon George finished with 11. 

Pope was encouraged by the contributions of Lohner, Harward and George. 

“We have a really good team. We’re going to get better and better and better. We still have a huge upside,” he said. “It’s really incredibly encouraging to see those guys making big strides. I’m excited about all three of them, what they can add to this team.”

“Gideon George is a legend. I love that guy. He works so hard every single day,” Harward said. “He’s got this different play style from most of the guys on our team. It throws a wrench into everything the other team was prepping for. Caleb Lohner is a freak of nature. That guy is unreal. He’s got the most positive personality and he brings a lot of energy to the court.” 

“Sometimes as a young player you can get totally distracted when you get blitzed to start a game against a great team. Those guys found a way to stay dialed in and I was super proud of them for that.” — Mark Pope

Pope also praised guard Spencer Johnson’s defensive effort “by being a disruptor on the floor.”

Overall, Pope was happy about how his team responded after being dominated in the opening minutes of the game.

“Sometimes as a young player you can get totally distracted when you get blitzed to start a game against a great team,” he said. “Those guys found a way to stay dialed in and I was super proud of them for that.”

Early in the second half, Wyatt Lowell suffered a leg injury and had to be helped off the court and into the locker room. It could be a long-term injury. 

“We’re not optimistic,” Pope said. “I hope the doctors’ guesses are wrong. That is discouraging. We’ll see how that goes.”

“That broke my heart,” Harward said of Lowell’s injury. “He’s one of my favorite teammates. I was with him at UVU. I got teary-eyed when I got into that locker room. He’s like a brother. Watching him get hurt like that sucks.”