Defense has been a strength for Loyola Marymount and BYU basketball this season. Coming into Thursday night’s head-to-head matchup, the Cougars and Lions ranked second and third in WCC basketball in scoring defense. The fact that the first meeting between the teams this season was also low-scoring led many to predict a defensive struggle in the rematch.
Those anticipations would prove to be dead-on accurate, at least as far as BYU is concerned. The Cougars jumped out to a 20-point first-half lead largely thanks to suffocating play on the defensive end. BYU would go on to earn a dominant 89-61 victory to snap a three-game losing streak in West Coast Conference play.
Defense, Rebounding Key Dominant Win for BYU Basketball
Having lost three straight games coming in, BYU head coach Mark Pope made the decision to have Jaxson Robinson come off the bench for the first time this season. Based on how well the Cougars started out in Thursday’s contest, it will be interesting to see if a similar lineup plan is implemented going forward.
Meanwhile, center Rick Issanza was in street clothes on the bench, and Loyola Marymount felt his absence throughout the contest. BYU’s Fousseyni Traore took full advantage, dominating the glass early on. After nearly accumulating a double-double in the first half alone, Traore would finish with 11 points and 13 rebounds. As a team, the Cougars finished with a 41-30 edge on the boards.
LMU has relied heavily on point guard Cam Shelton to carry the load offensively. Thursday’s WCC basketball game provided an example of how vulnerable Stan Johnson’s team is when Shelton is off. Jalin Anderson was the only Lions player to gain traction offensively. While he managed to score 19 points on 7-12 shooting (5-7 from beyond the arc), the rest of the team shot just 14-44 (31.8%) from the field.
Loyola Marymount vs BYU Game Recap
First Half — Cougars Build Early Lead in Wire-to-Wire Win
Noah Waterman started in Robinson’s place and provided plenty of energy and hustle on defense in the opening minutes. The first several minutes saw both teams struggle to put the ball in the basket. However, Fousseyni Traore wasted little time in getting after it on the boards. A pair of Spencer Johnson jumpers capped an 8-1 run that put the Cougars up 11-3 five minutes in.
When Robinson did enter the fray, he seemingly couldn’t miss a shot. In less than 90 seconds, he converted a 3-pointer from the wing, a transition layup and a stepback jumper on the baseline. As a team, BYU began to take advantage of opportunities in transition offensively. A Dallin Hall 3-pointer gave the Cougars a 33-13 advantage with seven minutes to play before halftime.
Over the next four minutes, Loyola Marymount was able to chip away at the deficit. As a team, the Lions started just 1-7 from beyond the arc. Jalin Anderson was able to knock down a pair of triples, the second of which came off a steal at the defensive end, to trim, the margin to 10 with three to go in the half.
BYU responded with a 12-4 run to lead 45-27 at the break. The 45 points marked the most that the Cougars have scored all season in the first half against WCC basketball conference opponents.
Second Half — BYU Comes Out of Locker Room Strong to Remove Any Doubt
The second half began just as the first half ended with BYU scoring the first five points to cap a 17-4 run that spanned the break and pushed the advantage back over 20. Keli Leaupepe converted a traditional 3-point play for LMU to bring the deficit back to 20, but the Lions were never able to get much closer.
A 3-pointer by Johnson at the 8:48 mark gave the Cougars a 28-point advantage. Shelton was finally able to get some shots to fall in the latter stages of the second half, but it was too little, too late for Loyola Marymount. With the outcome no longer in doubt, he was pulled from the game along with the Lions’ other starters with several minutes to spare.
Down the stretch, even the BYU reserves were able to get in on the fun. Rudi Williams connected on a 3-pointer with 1:35 to play that gave the Cougs their largest lead of the game at 30. The 89-61 victory certainly marked an emphatic bounce back for BYU basketball following the three-game losing streak.
Despite having its four-game winning streak come to an end, Loyola Marymount remains situated in third place in the WCC basketball standings for the time being. The Lions will aim to get back in the win column on Saturday when they travel to face San Diego.
With this win, BYU basketball is now back to .500 in West Coast Conference play. The Cougars will entertain Pacific in the Marriott Center on Saturday night as they look to continue moving up in the league standings.