LAS VEGAS (ABC4 Sports) – It had the feeling of an historic comeback, but the end, BYU’s run in the West Coast Conference Tournament ends in disappointment.

The Cougars cut a 26-point second-half deficit to just three with 31 seconds left Monday evening, but the rally ultimately came up short in a 76-69 loss to No. 16 Saint Mary’s.

BYU (19-15) will wait to see if the NIT has a spot. The Cougars have a NET ranking of No. 85, so they are at best on the bubble. If they don’t make the postseason, this was their last game as a WCC team; the program joins the Big 12 Conference next season.

“We wish we had performed better, but we gave ourselves a chance,” said head coach Mark Pope. “We weren’t quite ready to start this game. It took us a long time to find our emotional fight. This team has been brilliant in their effort. Their ability to get off the mat and complete is pretty special.”

Spencer Johnson had 13 points for BYU with Richie Saunders scoring 11 and Rudi Williams adding 10.

The first two meetings between these teams resulted in close St. Mary’s victories. The third meeting looked like a runaway early. Saint Mary’s went an 11-1 spurt to go up 20-8 and ended the first half with a five-point possession thanks to a dead-ball technical to go into halftime ahead 37-20.

BYU also went into a cold spell, going scoreless between a basket from Jaxson Robinson with 4:54 left in the first half until Spencer Johnson’s layup 11 seconds into the second period.

Saint Mary’s went ahead by 26 in the second half before the Cougars put together a 10-point run, cutting the deficit to 56-40. The Gaels played the remainder of the game as if they couldn’t wait for Tuesday, and BYU went on a nine-point spurt to get to 64-56 with 4:50 left.

“There was a real feel of belief,” Williams said. “We were obviously down big at halftime, but we’ve been in this position before, so no guy was willing to lay down. We just wanted to keep chipping away at it, chipping away at it.”

“It’s who our guys have been all year,” BYU coach Mark Pope said. “They care about each other and care about winning. There have been times we haven’t performed well this year and these guys come back.”

The Cougars got within 72-69 with 32.1 seconds to go before Kyle Bowen made a fast-break layup and Mahaney sank a free throw to give Saint Mary’s some breathing room again.