BYU Basketball suffered their first loss of the season against the Wolverines.
College Basketball is an odd sport. More than perhaps any other sport, the phrase “anyone can beat anyone on a given night” is true. In the case of BYU Basketball, that could not have been more true than it was Wednesday night against UVU.
While UVU deserves all the credit for taking advantage of BYU’s mishaps, the bottom line is that BYU needed about five things to go wrong for UVU to have a chance, and they all did.
The first thing was sickness. Gideon George wasn’t even in the arena last night dealing with a stomach bug and it appeared that perhaps Alex Barcello was also not 100%. Don’t get me wrong, UVU was guarding Barcello extremely well, but don’t tell me that a bunch of guys who transferred from BYU due to not getting playing time are able to guard Barcello better than players from Utah, Oregon and San Diego State.
The second is that everyone was having an off shooting night. The only player who shot over 40% was Spencer Johnson who had his own struggles from the free throw line. On the night, the Cougars shot only 31% overall and 26% from beyond the arc. Those kind of shooting numbers occur only a few times a year, and it so happened to happen against UVU. On the year the Cougars are shooting 44% which last night would have resulted in another 15-20 points.
The third issue was the lack of post players. With Gideon George out, Gavin Baxter appeared to be headed towards a night with a lot of opportunity and potential. That all changed early in the first half when he went down with an ACL tear, his third season ending injury. Aside from having to emotionally get over that, the Cougars were suddenly down to two big men, Fousse Traore and Atiki Ally Atiki, two players who Coach Pope was hoping would develop into great players, but not be needed as primary players this early in the year.
Throw that on top of the fact that UVU plays through the post primarily through Fardaws Aimaq who played all but one minute and it spelled disaster. Again, BYU prepared to have both George and Baxter out there to defend the post with help with Traore and they were left with Traore having to be main defender.
Fourth, and this one is preventable to some degree, this was UVU’s Super Bowl. No matter how you spin this, you can not honestly say that BYU was nearly as invested in this game as UVU was. Many of the UVU players dreamed of playing for BYU, and some even did before transferring. For them, this was their chance to have a “How do you like me now?” moment. For BYU, again dealing with illness and coming off a big win against Utah, this was probably honestly a game they didn’t care playing in very much. That’s not an excuse to lose, but it is a reality.
Finally, and I hate throwing this card out, but refereeing was awful. There was a sequence where Barcello was literally piggybacking a UVU player and there was no foul called. When Pope got onto the refs about it he got a technical. That sequence was a four point swing that should have sent Barcello to the line, but instead sent UVU to the line where they made both free throws. Does that make the difference in the game? I can’t say because things would have played out differently, but that moment seemed like the turning point for BYU and it leaves fans wonder what if?
Again, props to UVU. They outplayed and beat BYU. What I mentioned above aren’t excuses, but what transpired. BYU probably wins this gave 98/100 times, but as I mentioned in the first paragraph basketball is a weird sport and when the stars align for a certain team and against the other team on the same night things get weird.
BYU Basketball is still a great team and they have potential to be a Sweet Sixteen team if they can figure out the post. This was an off night and for awhile Ute fans and UVU fans (that apparently exist all of a sudden) can hang a banner about UVU winning the WCC.