Brigham Younger Cougars guard Spencer Johnson (20), left, high-fives Jackson Parcell, 5, after Brigham Younger Cougars wins over Loyola Marymount Lions in an NCAA basketball sport at Marriott Middle in Provo on Thursday, Feb. 24, 2022. (Mengshin Lin, Deseret Information)
Estimated learn time: 6-7 minutes
PROVO — Even with out admitting it publicly, you might inform Spencer Johnson has spent the previous month excited about the loss at Pacific.
His teammates have, too, even when the BYU males’s basketball crew has lengthy moved previous the 76-73 loss to Pacific that was the low level of the season, the Cougars’ solely Quad 4 lack of the Mark Pope period and the largest blemish on an in any other case NCAA Event-caliber resume.
However with 54 seconds left in Stockton, California, Alex Barcello drained a 3-pointer that pulled the Cougars inside 2 factors — with all of the momentum.
However BYU may get no nearer. What adopted was a mini-tragedy of errors, that includes three steals and two turnovers — to not point out 4 free throws — within the remaining 41 seconds as BYU fell 76-73, the primary time in Pope’s three years that the Cougars have failed to reply from a loss with a win.
“We simply did not actually have any vitality,” mentioned Johnson, talking publicly for the primary time concerning the Jan. 29 loss. “Everyone hits a degree within the season within the trenches of January and February the place it will get long and hard; you are within the grind, and typically it is easy to lose vitality and lose focus.
“We simply did not have a ton of struggle. Clearly, it confirmed; we did not play very properly. We could not get stops. I believe it will likely be totally different this time round if we performed them.”
That loss changed into three, which then grew to become 4, when San Francisco and Gonzaga got here to the Marriott Middle to cap off the longest dropping skid of the Mark Pope period. It is that skid that has BYU opening the West Coast Convention Event sooner than it ever has earlier than, a 7 p.m. MST tipoff Friday because the No. 5 seed.
The Cougars’ opponent that evening? It might be Loyola Marymount, which BYU has performed — and crushed — twice within the remaining three weeks of the common season, because of the WCC’s unbalanced schedule. Or it might be Pacific, that very same crew that handed the Cougars the loss on a bizarre weekend evening in a health club shut down for a prolonged delay as a result of the Tigers could not shut off an inadvertent shot clock.
Johnson will take both matchup Friday — he is aware of that a very powerful factor is to win that gameand advance to face San Francisco, at the moment ranked No. 28 within the NET and a Quad 1 neutral-site sport with potential NCAA Event implications Saturday evening on the Orleans Enviornment.
However deep down, even with out absolutely admitting, it is easy to inform this crew desires one other crack at Pacific.
“It would not matter to me,” Johnson mentioned, earlier than slyly including, “however it could be good to play Pacific once more; that may be enjoyable. A redemption sport.”
Past that stretch, he additionally feels just like the Cougars have corrected a lot of their points from the skid. Johnson has been a key purpose why, too, coming off the bench in all 29 video games he is performed to common 5.8 factors, 3.0 rebounds and 1.0 assists per sport in lower than 20 minutes.
The Salt Lake Group School switch who prepped at close by American Fork has scored in double figures eight instances this season, together with a career-high 15 factors on Dec. 1 towards Utah Valley. However he is been greater than a scorer, taking pictures 45% from the sector and sometimes being one of many first gamers off the bench as Pope turns to his 6-foot-5 body as a part of his prolonged defensive lineup.
An enormous a part of Johnson’s sport, by his personal admission, includes “ensuring we’re locked in defensively” and main the Cougars’ ball-screen protection and defensive rotations.
There’s some saltiness to his sport; and proper now, Pope admits there’s a number of saltiness amongst his crew that is aware of it must win not less than two video games in Las Vegas to have any probability of an NCAA Event bid.
“We had some guys that had been salty; that made me actually glad,” Pope mentioned after Tuesday’s follow within the Marriott Middle. “That is how it’s important to be as we translate this into tomorrow and Thursday and an enormous sport on Friday.
“However that is what we wish. I believe the blokes have some juice proper now. It makes me excited.”
Get to that Monday semifinal, the place BYU would face top-ranked Gonzaga for a 3rd time, and something can occur. The Cougars (21-9, 9-6 WCC) could be large underdogs in Sin Metropolis, however they had been a yr in the past when dealing with the Bulldogs within the match title sport on the Orleans Enviornment.
BYU had then-unbeaten Gonzaga on the ropes that evening, utilizing an 11-0 run within the first half to construct up a 12-point halftime lead. However Jalen Suggs scored 23 factors, together with two late 3-pointers, to rally the Zags to the win towards a fellow NCAA Event crew, 88-78.
“Gonzaga was actually good final yr, too, huh?” Johnson recalled pensively. “I hope we get to play them once more this yr; I actually do.
“Our crew is totally different this yr than it was final yr, and now we have a number of guys which are able to tackle that problem, to compete and struggle with them. The 2 instances we performed them this yr have not been nice video games; they’ve blown us out. However I believe if we get them once more, we will be prepared. The expertise from final yr teaches us that we are able to have a 10-12 lead at halftime, and us returning guys hope we get to play them once more. It will be a 40-minute sport, and we will get after them.”
Seneca Knight didn’t follow in full Tuesday afternoon as he continues to recuperate from a wrist damage suffered two weeks in the past at Saint Mary’s. However the junior switch from San Jose State put up photographs with the crew in each practices this week as he works again into type, Pope mentioned.
“He is doing good,” Pope mentioned. “It is simply form of a day-by-day factor that we’ll see.”
With out Knight, the Cougars have trimmed the common rotation to simply eight gamers, together with Caleb Lohner and Fousseyni Traore — who proceed to recuperate from nagging accidents suffered through the yr.
It is one purpose why BYU did not schedule a make-up sport towards a Quad 1 nonconference opponent this week that might have been added when the league opener towards Portland was canceled attributable to COVID-19. The Cougars had a sport tentatively aligned for Monday, however did not really feel taking part in on a fast turnaround from Saturday evening — and never practising Sunday — with a flight to the opposite crew’s campus made sense for his or her present place.
“That is the place you might be on this a part of the season,” Pope mentioned. “That is why it is a lot enjoyable.
“While you get to that second, you are battered and crushed, with photographs at your confidence, strife in your locker room; that is while you stroll into the largest second — as a result of it’s important to battle by all these things. It is an unimaginable expertise for our guys to develop.
“The postseason, there’s nothing prefer it.”
The West Coast Convention will launch its annual postseason awards Wednesday morning, a convention spokesman mentioned. The honors are voted on yearly by the league’s 10 coaches.