‘Salty’ and ‘fighting,’ BYU looks toward WCC Tourney opener — with key rematch in view

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 recreation 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 would inform Spencer Johnson has spent the previous month eager about the loss at Pacific.

His teammates have, too, even when the BYU males’s basketball group 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 Match-caliber resume.

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 might 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 closing 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 power,” mentioned Johnson, talking publicly for the primary time concerning the Jan. 29 loss. “Everyone hits some extent 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 simple to lose power and lose focus.

“We simply did not have a ton of battle. Clearly, it confirmed; we did not play very effectively. We could not get stops. I believe it will likely be totally different this time round if we performed them.”

That loss become 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 Match 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 may very well be Loyola Marymount, which BYU has performed — and overwhelmed — twice within the closing three weeks of the common season, due to the WCC’s unbalanced schedule. Or it may very well be Pacific, that very same group 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 crucial factor is to win that gameand advance to face San Francisco, at present ranked No. 28 within the NET and a Quad 1 neutral-site recreation with potential NCAA Match implications Saturday evening on the Orleans Area.

Pepperdine Waves guard Houston Mallette (0) drives against Brigham Young Cougars guard Spencer Johnson (20) during the game at the Marriott Center in Provo on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022.
Pepperdine Waves guard Houston Mallette (0) drives towards Brigham Younger Cougars guard Spencer Johnson (20) through the recreation on the Marriott Middle in Provo on Saturday, Feb. 26, 2022. (Picture: Spenser Heaps, Deseret Information)

However deep down, even with out totally admitting, it is simple to inform this group desires one other crack at Pacific.

“It does not matter to me,” Johnson mentioned, earlier than slyly including, “however it might be good to play Pacific once more; that might be enjoyable. A redemption recreation.”

Past that stretch, he additionally feels just like the Cougars have corrected lots of their points from the skid. Johnson has been a key cause 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 recreation in lower than 20 minutes.

The Salt Lake Group Faculty switch who prepped at close by American Fork has scored in double figures eight occasions this season, together with a career-high 15 factors on Dec. 1 towards Utah Valley. However he is been greater than a scorer, capturing 45% from the sphere 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 recreation, 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 recreation; and proper now, Pope admits there may be a whole lot of saltiness amongst his group that is aware of it must win a minimum of two video games in Las Vegas to have any likelihood of an NCAA Match bid.

“We had some guys that have been salty; that made me actually glad,” Pope mentioned after Tuesday’s apply within the Marriott Middle. “That is how you must be as we translate this into tomorrow and Thursday and a large recreation on Friday.

“However that is what we would like. 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 huge underdogs in Sin Metropolis, however they have been a 12 months in the past when dealing with the Bulldogs within the match title recreation on the Orleans Area.

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 Match group, 88-78.

“Gonzaga was actually good final 12 months, too, huh?” Johnson recalled pensively. “I hope we get to play them once more this 12 months; I actually do.

“Our group is totally different this 12 months than it was final 12 months, and we have now a whole lot of guys which can be able to tackle that problem, to compete and battle with them. The 2 occasions we performed them this 12 months 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 12 months 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 is going to be a 40-minute recreation, and we will get after them.”

Damage notes

Seneca Knight didn’t apply in full Tuesday afternoon as he continues to get better from a wrist harm suffered two weeks in the past at Saint Mary’s. However the junior switch from San Jose State put up pictures with the group 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 get better from nagging accidents suffered through the 12 months.

It is one cause why BYU did not schedule a make-up recreation towards a Quad 1 nonconference opponent this week that might have been added when the league opener towards Portland was canceled as a consequence of COVID-19. The Cougars had a recreation tentatively aligned for Monday, however did not really feel taking part in on a fast turnaround from Saturday evening — and never training Sunday — with a flight to the opposite group’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 overwhelmed, with pictures at your confidence, strife in your locker room; that is once you stroll into the largest second — as a result of you must battle by all these things. It is an unbelievable expertise for our guys to develop.

“The postseason, there’s nothing prefer it.”

Postseason awards

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.

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