BYU's second-half collapse cost them against Iowa State

BYU loses another double-digit lead and falls to Iowa State in the final minutes.

Spencer Johnson fights for the ball against Iowa State
Spencer Johnson fights for the ball against Iowa State / Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune / USA
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Coming into the game, many didn't believe that BYU had a chance against Iowa State in Ames. After all, the Cyclones have been undefeated in their house this season, and that's for good reason. Well, I have good news and I have bad news. The good news is that BYU proved they are good enough to compete with the best in the nation, as they've proved in their biggest matchups this year. The bad news is, as has been the case for many games this season, it was a tale of two halves for Mark Pope and the Cougars and in the second half, BYU fell apart.

The Cougars led at halftime with a score of 38-27. Their defense was excellent, and their offense was getting the job done. Richie Saunders was especially great in this game, opening on 5-5 shooting (3-3 on 3-pointers) and giving BYU the spark they needed to get ahead early in this game. As a fan of the team, I started feeling uneasy at halftime. Sure, I was excited to be ahead by double-digits against one of the best teams in the nation, but I knew BYU tended to let their opponents into the game, and that's exactly what happened in this game.

To give Iowa State credit, their defense lived up to the hype and got in their opponent's heads in this game. They came out in the second half with a new determination to be disruptive to BYU's offense that had been working well in the first half. They erased a 14-point deficit--their largest at home this season--to evade the late-season upset that was heading their way. Tamin Lipsey took over in the second half and led all Cyclone scorers with 19 points and outstanding defense.

In hindsight, I'm just happy that BYU was able to compete so well in such a high-profile game. In a pre-game poll, Cougar nation seemed much less optimistic about this game than they did against Kansas, seemingly hopeful for a win, but not willing to go all-in on it.

Only losing by 5 against a tough Iowa State squad is impressive for a team that wasn't supposed to accomplish anything in their first season of Big 12 play. Coach Otzelberger had this to say about the Cougars in his post-game press conference:

"Quickly, have a lot of respect for the BYU program. They’re a really good team, really well coached, they challenge a lot of things we do defensively with their shooting and spacing, so a lot of credit to their coaches, their players for the tremendous job they do. We know it’s going to be a really tough game and we had to be at our best and we’re fortunate down the stretch that we’re able to get enough stops to do the job, but a lot of credit to them. They are a great team. They are going to have a lot of great things happen moving forward this season."

TJ Otzelberger per 247 Sports

In a hard-fought game, anyone should be happy about BYU's drive to fight until the final buzzer sounds. But after scoring 38 points in the first half, BYU's offense was clearly bothered by the Cyclones' swarming defense. They were only able to muster 25 points in the second half. At times, the Cougars lost focus and made poor decisions that led to burned timeouts and turnovers, which plays right into Iowa State's game plan. BYU turned the ball over 17 times in this game and gave up 18 points off of those turnovers.

The final 4:24 of this game was agonizing to watch, though. BYU didn't score past that point in the game. Iowa State also struggled down the stretch, but gave the Cougars plenty of opportunities to take back the lead. Unfortunately, the team was hit with the turnover bug during this time, turning the ball over nearly every possession. Travels and poor decision-making only added fuel to Iowa State's fire and though they weren't able to convert most of those poor decisions into points, BYU was even more incapable of finding any sort of offensive daylight.

Aly Khalifa, Tamin Lipsey
Aly Khalifa contests a layup by Iowa State's Tamin Lipsey / Nirmalendu Majumdar/Ames Tribune / USA

The Cougars' final 3 possessions were all terribly executed, and I lost sleep thinking about the points they could have grabbed if not for their pattern of careless mistakes. Down 1, Fousseyni Traore received the ball near the top of the key and traveled in an attempt to pass the ball. In the next possession, still down 1, Dallin Hall drove right on Tamin Lipsey and lost control of the ball, dribbling off his leg and out of bounds--extremely reminiscent of the final possession against Utah. With the Cougars' final possession, Hall pushed the ball up the floor and pulled up for a 3-pointer that must have been at least 5 feet beyond the arc. The shot hit only the backboard, and Iowa State collected the rebound. While it was a desperation attempt, the Cougars still had about 5 seconds to get a better look, and Jaxson Robinson was open from the top of the key when Hall took the shot. It's hard to imagine that was the play that Pope drew up for his team.

The final score was 63-68 after Iowa State knocked down a few late-game free throws.

A tough loss, and hard to watch down the stretch, but BYU went into Ames and nearly stole a win from an Iowa State team that looked unbeatable at home for the entire season, much like Kansas did last week. Losing a game when you were in the driver's seat for the first 30 minutes is a tough pill to swallow, but the Cougars proved they belong with the best of the conference this season, and this game was no exception.

BYU's final regular-season game will be on Saturday in the Marriott Center against Oklahoma State.

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