SANTA CLARA, Calif. (ABC4 Sports) – Despite a combined 41 points from Spencer Johnson and Rudi Williams, the BYU basketball team came up short against Santa Clara Thursday night, 83-76.
Williams was 8-for-16 from the field and 7-of-8 from the charity stripe enroute to his second-highest scoring total of the season (24). The graduate transfer also finished with four assists, three rebounds and a steal in the defeat.
All four of Johnson’s made field goals came from behind the arc to ink a career-high with four made threes en route to 17 points. Hwhile also recording three rebounds, two assists, three steals and a block.
Dallin Hall was the third Cougar to finish in double-figures as he went 5-for-11 from the field on the night. The freshman went 50.0 percent from behind the arc, knocking down two timely threes that sparked BYU runs. Hall also had a career-high three steals.
BYU turned the ball over 19 times which led to 24 Bronco points off turnovers to just 11 Cougar points off the 15 Santa Clara turnovers. The Broncos also led in transition points as they scored 26 points on the break to BYU’s eight.
“There are so many lessons we have to learn with this group and physicality is one of them,” said BYU head coach Mark Pope. “That challenge presents itself again on Saturday. We did a poor job of preparing the team for that. I thought the guys responded well as the game went on but its hard when you dig yourself into a hole.”
The Cougars found themselves down 14-2 in the early going as Santa Clara forced 10 BYU turnovers in the first seven minutes before Spencer Johnson ended the Santa Clara 10-0 run with back-to-back threes. The six points from Johnson trimmed the Bronco lead to eight by the under-12 media timeout.
Williams came out of the under-8 media timeout with an 18-footer to cut the lead to seven before the Cougars got a stop on the defensive end and an offensive rebound on the next BYU possession. Williams grabbed the offensive board and reset to Noah Waterman who knocked down his first three of the night to draw BYU within six with 6:36 to play in the opening 20 minutes.
After the Broncos stretched the lead to ten with 1:48 to play, Trey Stewart picked the pocket of Santa Clara’s Keshawn Justice and scored to draw within eight. On the next trip down the floor for the Cougars, Stewart grabbed an offensive board and found Dallin Hall for a second-chance score to climb within five for the first time since the score was 7-2.
BYU turned the ball over 15 times in the opening half leading to 17 points for Santa Clara. The Cougars trailed by as many as 13 in the first half and never led during the first 20 minutes with the halftime score, 34-26.
To open the second half, BYU scored three straight buckets to cut the Bronco lead to 34-33 with 18:57 left, leading to a Herb Sendek timeout. Traore got the Cougars started with an offensive rebound putback, followed by a Dallin Hall steal and score. Johnson knocked down his third three of the night before the Santa Clara timeout.
Out of the timeout, Gideon George found Hall on a backdoor cut for a reverse layup to take a one-point lead just 1:34 into the second half. Jaxson Robinson stretched the BYU lead to four by hitting a left-wing three off an assist from George.
Santa Clara would not go quietly as the Broncos rattled off seven-straight points to retake a three-point lead with 14:44 to play.
After the under-16 media timeout, Johnson was found on the left wing for his career-high fourth three of the game which knotted the game at 43.
With 10:12 to go, a Santa Clara offensive rebound turned into a Keshawn Johnson second-chance triple to take the lead before back-to-back buckets from Williams gave the Cougars a two-point advantage with 9:36 left.
With BYU trailing by three with 6:18 to go, George found a cutting Waterman for the bucket and the foul. The junior completed the three-point play to tie the game at 58 before the Broncos went on a 6-0 run to lead by six with 5:14 remaining.
The Cougars fell behind by nine with 2:24 to play but five-straight points from Williams brought within four with 1:22 to go. Despite the late push, BYU wasn’t able to get over the hump and dropped its third conference game to the Broncos 83-76.
BYU will be back in action on the Hilltop at San Francisco on Saturday at 6:00 p.m.
“It’s our job, it’s what we do,” Pope said about the challenge coming off a loss against USF. “I would like to win all of the games but if you lose a game the only way to have any impact on it is to play better the next day. I don’t think any of us would choose that but it is what we have right now so the only thing we can do is respond and get better. It’s frustrating but is what we signed up for. We have to ring the bell and answer it.”