PROVO — Coming out of a first half where the team shot 34% from the field, had eight turnovers and a 32-31 deficit at home to Pacific, the BYU men’s basketball team faced a crossroads.
Coming off the worst loss of the season and arguably the worst under second-year head coach Mark Pope, the Cougars’ season was on the brink. Another loss like the one they suffered at Pepperdine on Wednesday afternoon — and Pacific, which ranks six spots behind the Waves at No. 139 in the NCAA’s NET rankings scheduled on three days’ notice, certainly qualifies — and BYU’s hopes of any consideration for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament were over.
There was nothing pretty about what the Cougars did Saturday afternoon in the Marriott Center — in all four sessions.
But BYU’s streak of not losing back-to-back games under Pope remained intact.
Alex Barcello had 23 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, and Brandon Averette added 24 points and five assists, and BYU held off Pacific 95-87 in double overtime at the Marriott Center.
Matt Haarms supplied 13 points and eight rebounds for the Cougars (14-4, 5-2 WCC), who made just 18-of-28 free throws — including misses on a pair of go-ahead foul shots in both the final minute of regulation and the first overtime.
Make no mistake: there were a lot of ugly moments in BYU’s win over the Tigers, a game filled with moments of unstoppable offense followed by long scoreless droughts by both teams.
Only one thing was pretty about it, really.
“The game was so incredibly awesome, because we won. I’m so happy about that,” Pope said. “We went through our whole lineup, and everybody found a way to contribute.
“On not-our-best night, the guys gutted it out. That’s the identity of this team: we know we’ll stay in there.”
Jahbril Price-Noel scored 16, and Jordan Bell added 12 points and 10 rebounds for Pacific. Justin Moore added 18 points for the Tigers (5-4, 2-3 WCC).
The Cougars opened the second overtime with three-straight buckets, a 7-2 burst through Haarms and Spencer Johnson that put the Cougars up 82-77 with 3:39 left.
They also held Price-Noel scoreless in the second extra session, and Bell fouled out late in the first overtime.
In every huddle, the Cougars said the same thing to each other: keep your fight, stay hungry. Eventually, that fight broke through.
“Eventually they’re going to break — and we’re not going to break,” said Barcello, whose defensive toughness cost him a chipped tooth (since fixed) a week ago. “We’re too tough, and we work too hard to break.
They’re a talented team. They hit some tough shots down the stretch … even when we were playing pretty good defense. When they get going they can really go. But they missed a couple, and I think that gave us a sense of confidence. Then our bigs and everyone just focused on rebounding, on getting stops, that’s how we knew we were going to win the game.”