The UT-Arlington Mavericks ran past the Cougars in the first round of the NIT.
Photo Courtesy of BYU Photo
PROVO – The Marriott Center lights went out for the final time over the 2016-2017 season for the BYU Basketball team as the disappointing officially came to an close Wednesday night as the BYU Cougars fell to the UT-Arlington Mavericks in the first round of the NIT 105-89.
Jumping out to an early 8-2 lead in the first minute and a half of the game, the UT-Arlington led the game wire-to-wire as it advances to face the Akron Zips in the second round of the NIT.
Wednesday’s contest saw six ties, but BYU never took the lead back from the Mavericks in the loss.
The Cougars and Mavericks battled each other for an advantage early on as both teams started the game lighting up the scoreboard. BYU shot just under 60% in the first half while the Mavericks sat at 63% taking a 62-55 lead into the locker room.
“What really got us was they scored 60 points in the first half,” said Nick Emery. “If you score 60 points in the first half, you’re up for a 120 point game. That’s a lot of points in college basketball.”
Lacking depth with the loss of Elijah Bryant for the remainder of the season and first team All-WCC freshman TJ Haws limited due to illness, the 1-2 punch of Eric Mika and Nick Emery paced the Cougars with 23 and 15 points in the first half, respectively.
Emery’s outburst came after a disappointing outing the WCC tournament against Saint Mary’s where the sophomore guard was held to 0-7 shooting from the field. Emery gave the Cougars several big buckets to keep the Cougars in pace with the Mavericks early on in the contest including back-to-back scores with 7:31 left in the first half to tie the game up at 38 all.
The offensive showcase failed to carry momentum into the second half as the Mavericks opened the scoring with a 5-0 run to extend the lead to 12.
The Cougars made several runs to claw their way back into the contest but were stopped short by the Mavericks repeatedly as the closest it would get would be 76-68 after a Nick Emery three with 13:12 remaining in the game.
Despite the large gap between the two teams, the Marriott Center crowd stayed engaged throughout the contest cheering loudly for the Cougars as they continued to battle.
“To hear the crowd when they scored it was hard to overcome that,” said UT-Arlington Head Coach Scott Cross. “Luckily our guys were mentally tough in this game but what an absolute, unbelievable home court atmosphere that they have here. It was great to play in it and it got our guys emotions going and got them to play hard in this environment.”
BYU’s offensive woes came from poor ball handling and shot selection as the Cougars shot 27.3% from the field in the second half and turned over the ball 20 times in the contest. UT-Arlington took advantage of the mistakes turning the turnovers into 32 points.
BYU Head Coach Dave Rose said of the struggles, “20 turnovers. You turn the ball over 20 times at home you are going to have a hard time beating people.”
Three Mavericks scored 20+ in the contest led by Drew Charles with 28 points, Kevin Hervey with 22, and Kaelon Wilson with 20. Erick Neal also dished out 13 assists while scoring five points.
Eric Mika, Nick Emery, TJ Haws, and Colby Leifson scored in double figures for BYU. Mika paced the Cougars with 29 points, with 24 from Emery; and 11 and 10 points from Haws and Leifson, respectively.
Injury was a theme for the Cougars for the season losing two seniors captains – LJ Rose and Kyle Davis – to injury on the season. This left BYU with a starting rotation of two freshmen and three sophomores down the stretch and the lack of experience showed in late season losses.
The Cougars are expected to return 12 players from the roster with the departure of Davis, Rose, and freshman Colby Leifson who will depart on a two year mission. Expected additions to the roster for 2017-2018 include returned missionaries Ryan Andrus, Dalton Nixon, and Luke Worthington.