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What Went Wrong For BYU Basketball In First Round Exit Against UCLA

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - MARCH 20: Alex Barcello #13 of the Brigham Young Cougars goes up for a shot against the UCLA Bruins in the first round game of the 2021 NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament at Hinkle Fieldhouse on March 20, 2021 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana – From the opening tip-off to the final horn, Saturday’s First Round tilt at Hinkle Fieldhouse, BYU had no answers for UCLA.

The Bruins were a team that entered the NCAA Tournament on a four-game losing streak. But they are now playing some of their basketball under head coach Mick Cronin. What went wrong for BYU? Saturday’s game was only the third time BYU scored less than 65 points in a game. To have one of those low-scoring games in the NCAA Tournament will end your season in a hurry.

Let’s take a look at what went wrong for BYU on Saturday night in Hinkle.

Three-Point Shooting

BYU made only three three-pointers in the entire game. The last make from three for BYU was at the 18:12 mark of the second half from Alex Barcello to cut the deficit to 11. After that, BYU didn’t hit a single three the rest of the night.

Sometimes we overthink the games a little bit, but really it’s a game of making shots. BYU could not harness some of that energy they had against Gonzaga in the first half of the WCC Tournament title game. This team showed the ability to win games without the three falling. But in an NCAA Tournament, that was going to be hard to overcome. Especially with an uncharacteristic 18 percent from the field.

Never made the big run

Midway through the first half, Brandon Averette knocked down a three; then Spencer Johnson forced a steal on Juzang. It felt like the tide was turning for BYU at that moment. But UCLA then answered.

In the second half, BYU trimmed down the UCLA lead to four, but at the next media stoppage, the Bruins were back up by 11. After digging themselves out of a little bit of the hole, getting sent back into a double-digit hole put the Cougars down for good.

Lack of a “go-to guy” hurt BYU

There is a precedent for how BYU makes NCAA Tournament runs. The Cougars go deep in March when they have the nation’s best player (Danny Ainge, Jimmer Fredette). Sounds extreme, but with 30 NCAA Tournament appearances, that’s the reality for BYU.

Coming into the season, BYU had a deep roster with so many different options. But the big question was, who would be the go-to guy? That question reared its ugly face again tonight. BYU needed someone to put the game on their back, similar to what Johnny Juzang did in the first half for UCLA. The lack of that presence did not help BYU’s chances.

Second Chance Points

UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez has been a difference-maker for the Bruins in their first two NCAA games, especially on the offensive glass. Jaquez’s offensive board against Michigan State late in regulation won the game for UCLA. On Saturday night, he came up with multiple possessions leading to second-chance scores against BYU.

BYU ended the night minus-six on second-chance points. Eliminate those points, and it’s a two-possession ball game, with possibly a different outlook and feel in the final minutes.

Follow Mitch Harper and his NCAA Tournament 2021 coverage from Indianapolis with BYU and Utah State by following KSL Sports on InstagramTwitterFacebook, and the KSL Sports app.

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