BYU Comeback Falls Short As Boise State Pulls Off Wire-To-Wire Upset

Dec 9, 2020, 9:56 PM | Updated: 10:34 pm
BYU Basketball - Boise State - Emmanuel Akot...
Boise State's Emmanuel Akot hit a game-winning three to take down BYU on December 9th, 2020. (BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)
(BYU Photo/Jaren Wilkey)

PROVO, Utah – The cold shooting that plagued BYU basketball against Boise State last year in Idaho showed up again on Wednesday night at the Marriott Center.

BYU lost its first home game at the Marriott Center in 13 months, falling to the Broncos 74-70 in a game where the Cougars never led.

Boise State jumped out to a 14-0 lead through the first nine and a half minutes of game action. BYU was playing catch up throughout the rest of the game.

BYU went into the halftime locker room with a nine-point deficit after Alex Barcello hit the Cougars’ first three-point field goal of the game. Last year at Boise, BYU scored 20 points in the first half. This year wasn’t much better as BYU produced only 21 points through the first 20 minutes.

“We knew they were a good team coming in; they’re really talented at a bunch of different positions,” said BYU coach Mark Pope. “They came out with some good fire and passion and we couldn’t respond. I’m proud of my guys for hanging in there, and we’re fighting and kind of battling through some frustrations, staying locked in and putting their heart into every possession. We just couldn’t quite get it done tonight.”

BYU couldn’t get over the hump in the 2nd Half

The Cougars didn’t roll over in the second half; they fought back. BYU cut the deficit and tied the game up at 48 with 9:49 remaining. After Barcello hit the tying bucket, BYU’s Trevin Knell fouled former Wasatch Academy prospect Emmanuel Akot to send him to the line for two free throws.

BYU head coach Mark Pope said that Boise State could be the best team the Cougars face in the non-conference; the Broncos looked as good as Pope advertised them. Every time that BYU made a run at the Broncos or it felt the momentum was swinging in BYU’s favor, Leon Rice’s team had an answer.

Boise’s RayJ Dennis led the Broncos in scoring with 19 points, but it was forward Abu Kigab who hit daggers against BYU’s comeback efforts. Kigab scored 12 of his 14 points in the second half and was a perfect 4-4 from the field.

The Broncos built their lead back up to seven at 69-62; Barcello hit a floater to cut BYU’s deficit to five. Brandon Averette hit Matt Haarms on a high/low. Then Averette and Barcello knocked down consecutive buckets to tie things up at 70 with 18.9 seconds remaining.

Former Wasatch Academy star and Arizona transfer Emmanuel Akot then knocked down a three with 13 seconds left to put Boise up 73-70.

After a pair of timeouts, Alex Barcello, who ended up as BYU’s leading scorer with 22 points, put up an open three-pointer to tie the game. It bounced off the rim with Boise State coming up with the rebounds and sealing the victory.

“He had an option for the three and we ran a hammer on the weak side, which we kind of messed up. But Alex came off and he had an open look. We’re going to take that every single time. It’s a good look,” said Pope. “We just put ourselves in an unfortunate situation. In the last 10 minutes, we really struggled to guard.

“We fouled too much which was really disappointing. We were out of gaps on a team that had not hurt us from the three-point line, with the exception of Kigab, we just weren’t together defensively in the second half. It’s something we’ll continue to work on and grow on. But for that situation, to get a wide-open look, we’re really happy with it and Alex Barcello is shooting 60 percent from the three-point line, it was a great look for us.”

BYU Basketball Notebook

*BYU shot 33 percent from three-point range compared to Boise State’s 60 percent shooting.

*Two front end misses cost BYU four the potential for four points in a game that was decided by four.

*BYU had 11 turnovers at the halftime break. Ended the game with 14. Boise State entered the game eighth nationally in turnover margin this season. The Broncos finished with 11 turnovers. Boise State had seven steals against BYU.

*Spencer Johnson gave BYU a nice lift off the bench scoring 10 points including a pair of three-pointers in the second half.

*BYU was outrebounded by the Broncos by three, 33-30.

Next up for BYU is the rivalry game against the University of Utah on Saturday at 4 p.m. at the Marriott Center.

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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