Cougars tame Lions, move into WCC semifinals

BYU vs. Loyola Marymount, Las Vegas, Nev., Mar. 4, 2017 | Photo by BYU Photo

LAS VEGAS – BYU won its 22nd game of the year with an 89-81 win over Loyola Marymount Saturday in the quarterfinals of the West Coast Conference Tournament in Las Vegas.

The win qualifies the Cougars for Monday’s semifinals against Saturday night’s winner of No. 2-seeded Saint Mary’s and No. 10-seeded Portland, which upset seventh-seeded San Diego Friday night.

BYU countered an 11-0 run by the Lions with a 10-4 run of its own to put the game away late.

“I think the proudest I am of our guys is they kept coming back at us, and we were able to respond every time,” BYU head coach Dave Rose said. “That’s a sign of a team that is playing really tight as a group and executing well.”

BYU vs. Loyola Marymount, Las Vegas, Nev., Mar. 4, 2017 | Photo by BYU Photo

Holding a 69-56 lead with just over eight minutes to go in the game, the Cougars went ice cold, allowing LMU 11 unanswered, with Steven Haney hitting back-to-back baskets to cut it to 69-67 with 6:36 remaining. But BYU answered with a bucket inside by Eric Mika, which began a three-minute stretch that enabled the Cougars to push the lead back out to eight. BYU coasted home from there.

The Cougars led virtually the entire first half after hitting three straight 3-pointers to open the game. Nick Emery had two of those and Elijah Bryant the other as BYU led 9-2. But Loyola Marymount fought back, taking its first lead at 19-17 after a Shamar Johnson 3-pointer.

Seconds later, Kelvin Amayo also hit a trey and the Lions led 22-17 with 12:15 to go in the first half. But BYU turned to the post tandem of Mika and Yoeli Childs to outscore LMU 25-16 the rest of the first half for a 42-38 edge at intermission.

BYU vs. Loyola Marymount, Las Vegas, Nev., Mar. 4, 2017 | Photo by BYU Photo

The Lions made 9 of 20 3-pointers in the first half and outrebounded BYU 28-18. But the Cougars got to the line and made 14 of 18 free throws, with Mika and Childs combining on 9 of 11.

Mika, who was named first-team all-WCC earlier Saturday along with teammate TJ Haws, finished the game with yet another double-double. The sophomore center had 25 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Cougars. Emery, named as a WCC honorable mention player, finished with 21 points and made four 3-pointers. He became the 50th player in BYU program history to score more than 1,000 points in his career during Saturday’s contest.

Haws and Bryant each scored 14 for BYU, but the Cougars got just one point from their bench players.

BYU will play in the WCC semifinals Monday night, with the time yet to be determined. LMU drops to 15-15 on the year.

WCC bracket

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