BYU missed another chance to pick up a quality non-conference win on Saturday, falling 91-84 to unbeaten USC at Staples Center in the Hoophall LA event.
The Cougars’ high-octane offense featured a healthy dose of Eric Mika (29 points, nine rebounds), but it was not enough. Without a career-high scoring output from the sophomore, the Cougars would’ve been blown out of this one.
The Trojans opened the game by going 1-17 from the field and trailed 12-2 before their shots started falling. Once they started to heat up, though, the game turned. Despite their ugly start, USC finished the game shooting 45.5 percent from the field.
BYU scored just 36 points outside the paint, 19 coming from the charity stripe. And from long range, the Cougars hit a miserable five of 23 shots.
The Trojans remained undefeated thanks to big games from Jordan McLaughlin (24 points) and Shaqquan Aaron (19 points).
An Aaron three at the 6:20 mark tied the game at 19 after USC’s cold start and from there, USC scored 20 points the remainder of the half to go ahead by seven at the break.
Sophomore guard Nick Emery (15 points), who last year posted better scoring numbers than any BYU freshman other than Danny Ainge, was held scoreless during the first half.
Coming out of halftime, Emery got it together, but the Trojans simply kept rolling. A 10-2 USC run opened the second period to give the Trojans a 15-point lead. They held on to that comfortable advantage almost the entire rest of the way.
But Mika and T.J. Haws (16 points) refused to let the Cougars go out without a fight. Haws, like Emery, was held without a point in the first half. Mika and Haws scored 15 of BYU’s final 18 points, all but six of which came either in the paint or at the free throw line.
That insistence on getting into the paint caused two starting Trojan bigs, Chimezie Metu (12 points) and Nick Rakocevic, to foul out. But even without them, the Cougars simply couldn’t get the job done.
A lackluster defense and an offense that can’t score outside of the paint is not a recipe for success, especially when you’re playing 80 possessions like BYU did on Saturday
USC improves to 8-0 on the season while BYU falls to 5-3 and has dropped three of its last four games.