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BYU Basketball - Mark Pope - Upset
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BYU Suffers ‘Gut Check’ Loss To USC Basketball In Bubbleville

Brigham Young Cougars head coach Mark Pope gets angry with the referee when a foul wasn’t called during the BYU-Saint Mary’s West Coast Conference semifinal game at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas on Monday, March 9, 2020. (Steve Griffin, Deseret News)

BYU basketball hasn’t experienced the taste of defeat often under head coach Mark Pope. Tuesday’s matinee tilt in at the Mohegan Sun’s “Bubbleville” against USC was as big of a defeat as anyone has seen for a Pope-led BYU team.

The long and athletic Trojans defeated BYU 79-53, resulting in the Mark Pope era’s biggest loss and, more importantly, the Cougars first loss of the 2020-21 season (2-1).

“It’s not just a loss, it’s a real gut check, reality check, and a test to see who we are,” said BYU coach Mark Pope. “That’s never an acceptable outcome. My gosh, it’s an awful performance as a head coach, and I didn’t help my team at all. That never ever can happen as a basketball team. We have some soul searching to do tonight and figure out who we are.”

BYU held an 18-17 lead at the under-eight media timeout in the first half. That was the last time you could say anything positive about how Pope’s squad played against USC. After that under eight media timeout, BYU missed 18 of its next 19 field goals to go into the halftime locker room trailing the Trojans 31-20.

The 20 first-half points scored was the lowest output from BYU since last year’s loss at Boise State. In that game, BYU bounced back in the second half to make things competitive and force overtime. Against USC, that wasn’t the case.

USC, led by five-star freshman center Evan Mobley, who has drawn comparison to Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis, was too much for BYU scoring 17 points and pulling down 11 rebounds on eight-of-12 shooting from the field.

Matt Haarms – First Career Start

BYU’s star big man Matt Haarms got his first career as a Cougar as he still works his way back to 100 percent after suffering an ankle injury two weeks ago in practice. Haarms played well early in the game, scoring nine of his team-high 11 points in the first half. During the second half, Haarms played eight minutes and was seen during the game stretching out near the BYU bench.

As a team, BYU shot 28 percent from the field and 23 percent from three-point range. USC, who had four players in double figures in scoring, shot 53 and 43 percent respectively from the field and beyond the arc.

“I know USC is a good team, and they have length. We didn’t feel right from the get-go. We were a little stagnant; we just couldn’t get ourselves to go. So, that is just incredibly disappointing,” said Pope. “We’ll figure it out. Our job is to figure it out and make it better, and we’ve got to do it. We have to respond because that’s just a tough one.”

No “bright spots” for BYU Basketball after USC loss

Junior college transfer Gideon George provided a little bit of a spark for BYU scoring nine points in the second period. Still, Pope isn’t finding any bright spots from what transpired in the Bubbleville matinee.

“I love Gideon, he showed some fight tonight and was really competing, but I’m not sure there are any bright spots. There are no bright spots that don’t exist here, this is a team deal, and when we get to take a shellacking like that with the irrelevant amount of fight that we had to put in that game, it’s really awful and it’s on me. It’s 100% me; I’ve got to fix it.”

Pope and his team will need to fix their issues in a hurry as they take on St. John’s from Bubbleville in less than 24 hours on Wednesday at 3 p.m. Last season, Pope’s team had zero stretches with back-to-back losses. They’ll try to avoid two consecutive losses against the Johnnies on Wednesday.

Wednesday’s BYU Basketball game against St. John’s can be seen on ESPN2 and heard on KSL NewsRadio.

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m., KSL Newsradio). Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper and the KSL Sports app.

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