LOS ANGELES – Sophomore Eric Mika scored a career-high 29 points and added nine rebounds as BYU basketball fell to USC 91-84 in the HoopHall LA 2016 in the Staples Center on Saturday.
“There weren’t very many minutes in this game where we looked like ourselves,” BYU head coach Dave Rose said. “It seemed like everything we did tonight was a little passive. We did make a little comeback and closed it down to five towards the end, but we never really got into a game that looked like us. We were having a tough time making shots and we turned the ball over too much, so from here, we need to dig in and see what we can do to look more like ourselves for more of the game.”
Mika led all scorers, freshman TJ Haws ended with 16 points, and sophomore Nick Emery logged 15 points and five rebounds. Senior Kyle Davis came off the bench and recorded 10 points and five rebounds, and senior L.J. Rose and freshman Yoeli Childs both ended with five points apiece.
Haws and Emery did all their scoring in the second half whereas Rose and Childs did all of their scoring in the first half. The Cougars shot 44 percent from the field compared to USC’s 45 percent, but the Cougars shot only 21 percent from 3, while the Trojans shot 42 percent from beyond the arc.
“I thought we didn’t get into a rhythm,” Emery said. “That’s frustrating for us. We’re still a young team and learning how to play together. You have to learn from mistakes. That’s what makes the season interesting.”
USC claimed the first points of the half, but a 10-0 run for the Cougars quickly ensued. Mika contributed eight points while Childs had the other two. The Trojans took the first timeout of the game at the 15:05 mark following a Mika alley-oop fed by Rose.
Rose found the basket himself to give BYU a double digit advantage at 12-2, but USC finally found their rhythm and got on the board again with six straight points. Two more 3-pointers for the Trojans shortened the gap even more, BYU up only three, 17-14.
The Trojans tied the game up at 19-19, and the teams traded points for the next four and a half minutes, including 3-pointers. USC took its first lead over the Cougars at the 2:54 mark, forcing BYU into a timeout.
The Trojans led by nine with under a minute left, but the Cougars entered the locker room down only seven, 39-32, following a Jamal Aytes baseline jumper with seconds left in the half.
A 10-0 run for the Trojans began the second half, but five points from Emery and five points from Mika cut the deficit to only eight, 55-47, with 13:27 remaining.
USC was able to extend its lead to double digits again at the 11:45 mark but Haws found his first points of the game before BYU stripped the ball from the Trojans and Emery hit a quick 3-pointer in transition to make the score 66-58.
Still down double digits after a few USC scores, BYU began a 7-0 run with Mika being fouled on a successful layup attempt at the 3:25 mark and scoring the free throw. Two free throws from Haws were followed by a quick USC turnover with the Cougars down eight, and Mika again went to the stripe and drained both shots with 2:50 remaining.
After a successful free throw from USC, Mika found himself at the stripe again where he made both at the 1:42 mark, the Cougars down only five, 80-75, the closest margin since the final minute of the first half.
With BYU unable to get stops on the defensive end and the two teams trading free throws for the final minute, the Trojans were able to maintain their lead over the Cougars, despite 3-pointers from Haws and Emery. As the clock wound down, BYU fell to USC, 91-84.
“There were matchup issues the whole night,” Dave Rose said. “We were having a tough time making shots and we turned the ball over too much.”
The Cougars will return home play Weber State on Wednesday, Dec. 7, in the Marriott Center. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. MST and will be televised on BYUtv and also broadcast on the Cougar IMG Sports Network, KSL 1160 AM/102.7 FM and BYU Radio – Sirius XM 143.
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