Saint Mary’s handed BYU their first loss in WCC play as the Cougars fell 81-68.
MORAGA, CA – Eric Mika scored 28 points but it wasn’t enough for the BYU Cougars (11-5, 2-1 WCC) to get past the Saint Mary’s Gaels (13-1, 3-0 WCC) as the Cougars fell 81-68 in Thursday’s contest between the WCC foes.
The difference in experience between the two teams showed as the Cougars kept pace with the Gaels for the first eight minutes of the game, but with 11:15 remaining in the first half and the score tied at 20 a piece, Saint Mary’s went on a 13-0 run to increase their lead to 33-20.
BYU was never able to overcome the deficit.
The Cougars weren’t able to find any momentum and while they closed on the Gaels several times, they never were able to bring the score to a one possession game and Saint Mary’s took a 44-36 lead into the locker room. The Gaels finished the half shooting 64.3% from the field.
In the second half, Saint Mary’s extended their lead as BYU struggled to find the bottom of the net.
Help came from the Cougar bench in Elijah Bryant who returned to the Cougar line up after missing ten games while nursing a knee injury. Bryant played 19 minutes and provided length on the perimeter for the Cougar defense and scored 11 points. Bryant knocked down two big three’s cutting Saint Mary’s lead down to nine points but the Cougars were unable to build on the momentum and Saint Mary’s extended the lead to as much as 15 points with three minutes remaining.
Saint Mary’s defense shut down the BYU offense and prevented the Cougars from running set plays and forced the Cougars to put up several contested shots. The Gaels held BYU to only nine assists and blocked five shots.
Offensively, the Gaels were paced by Jock Landale as he went to battle with Eric Mika in the post and finished with 26 points and nine boards in the contest. Emmett Naar also added 17 points for the Gaels and shot 3/4 beyond the arc.
BYU will return to the Marriott Center on Saturday to host the Pacific Tigers (7-9, 1-2 WCC) who are coming off of their first win in WCC play after beating San Diego 56-53. The Tigers will try to play spoiler again as they beat BYU last time they visited the Marriott Center 77-72.
Saturday’s contest will tip of at 7 pm MT and Greg Wrubell can be heard calling the game on KSL Radio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM) and the game will also be broadcast on BYUTV with Dave McCann and Blaine Fowler.