BYU legend Danny Ainge stood in the back of the room where post-game interviews took place Saturday night in the bowels of the Marriott Center.
The current CEO of Utah Jazz basketball saw the final minutes of the Jazz losing a point at home to the Philadelphia 76ers before BYU coach Mark Pope arrived to speak to reporters. I was watching on my phone.
Einge was standing outside the room when Pope headed off to the interview session.
When Pope learned of the results of the Jazz game, he said, “Unfortunately we were there.
As Pope says, after a brutal one-point loss, like when his team played Thursday at home to reigning West Coast Conference champions and domestic powerhouse No. 8 Gonzaga. , it’s not easy to get yourself off the floor and play two nights. After that, even against opponents Pepperdine, it went unwinnable and sits bottom of the West Coast Conference play.
“Thursday night was very emotional,” said Pope. “Your mind has returned a thousand times over the last 48 hours to remember what you should have done, what you should have done, what you might have missed. These guys I was very disciplined about not letting my mind stay there.”
The Cougars showed their resilience Saturday night by holding off Pepperdine 91-81 in front of a crowd of 14,434 at the Marriott Center.
Guard Spencer Johnson, who scored 13 points and four steals, said: “After such an emotional game against Gonzaga, you’ll have a drink from the Fountain of Youth and be like, ‘Oh, it’s over.'” said. “I’ll either stay up all night or get up at all costs and move on to finish this scout.”
The Pope added: I thought they did a great job fighting it and came out victorious. “
BYU (14-7, 4-2) led by a whopping 13 points in the first half, but Waves cut that deficit to just double in the second half.
But the Cougars never let go of the lead and found a way to finish.
Six players scored in double figures for BYU, with Richie Saunders (13 points on 5 of 6 shots) and Atiki Ally Atiki (11 points, 5 rebounds) showing strong performances off the bench.
“I was very proud of[Sanders]defensive duties tonight. It was difficult,” Pope said.
“That allowed him to stay on the floor. He was pretty good and his effort was great. His energy was tremendous.”
Sanders filled in a crucial 3-pointer with 9:30 left in the game to give the Cougars a 68-58 lead.
Pepperdine then made it 8-0, 68-66.
Huseini Traoré (8-of-12 shooting, 9 rebounds, team-high 19 points) grabbed the bucket after Johnson hit a 3-pointer, giving BYU some breathing room.
A Saunders putback then gave the Cougars a 77–68 advantage with 5:40 remaining.
The game went like this for most of the second half — BYU tried to maintain a double-digit lead, but the feeble Waves, who shot 63% in the second half, continued to shoot big.
However, BYU allowed Pepperdine only two field goals in the final five minutes of the game.
The Cougars dominated the board, beating the Waves 41-23, including 13 offensive rebounds, including four from Gideon George.
“I’m very grateful to be working on the glass again. We’ve been a little off the grass in the last three games and that was a concern for us,” Pope said.
“I’m really happy with the effort our players are making on the grass. We have 13 offensive rebound goals every night. We had a three-game stretch and didn’t come close. That was really important to us.” ”
BYU’s Darrin Hall had 13 points and a team-leading seven assists, while Jackson Robinson had 12 points and four assists.
The Cougars were offensively aggressive, going to the free-throw line with a season-high 32. They made his 25 free throws, including 5 of 6, in his last three minutes.
What was the key to closing this game?
“My biggest concern was sitting in the middle of the last media timeout huddle. Our guys were white on their faces. They were done emotionally,” the Pope said. “This Gonzaga[game]got away because we were distracted. Gonzaga is a great team. I think that game had so many moments, crazy stuff…
“Tonight I did a much better job of trying to stay in the present without thinking about everything else,” Pope said. , allowing them to remain present in the moment and devote themselves to their current work.”
Pepperdine (7-12, 0-5) scored 19 with guard Houston Mallet leading. Maxwell Lewis scored 18, Jan Zidek 14, Mike Mitchell 12 and Jevon Porter 11.
Pepperdine threw everything he had at BYU, but the Cougars responded.
The Pope thanked all the fans who gathered on Saturday following Thursday’s tough defeat.
“Can you tell me what can help? What’s the magic? Back in this gym, there are nearly 15,000 people here,” he said.
“It’s not going to happen. We’re dropping the game on Thursday, but still walking into this gym feels great. We’re really blessed. This Cougar Nation is here to support us We could have stepped into this gym.It’s the final piece of recovery.Thank you to all the Cougar fans.”
BYU visits Santa Clara on Saturday.
tip in: BYU outscored Pepperdine on second chance points 17-4…George was 6/6 from the free throw line…The Cougars had 18 assists on 29 field goals.. BYU shot 57% in the second half.