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BYU falls to UCLA in the first round

The Cougars just couldn’t get it going against this year’s First Four “darling.”

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-UCLA at BYU Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

It seems one of the teams from the First Four always makes it to the Round of 32. Unfortunately for the BYU Cougars, it was UCLA that was able to continue that trend this year.

Kentucky transfer Johnny Juzang lead the Bruins with 26 points and the Los Angeles team was ultimately able to cruise to a 73-62 win on Saturday night. UCLA used a small lineup of interchangeable wings to keep BYU uncomfortable.

The Cougars could not take advantage of UCLA’s lack of size, as senior center Matt Haarms had 11 points and nine rebounds, but the Bruins were nonetheless able to advantage of the Purdue graduate transfer on the defensive end. Haarms’ eight inch height advantage over every Bruin never really seemed to come into play.

UCLA scored 38 first half points to build an 11-point halftime lead. At that point, the Cougars just could not chip into the deficit. We never saw the typical second half tournament collapse from Mick Cronin-coached team, either.

BYU was never able to get within an arms reach, especially as the Cougars struggled at the free throw line shooting (9-16). Mark Pope’s team also uncharacteristically struggled from long distance, shooting 3-17 from three. This was a stark difference from the WCC Championship performance where they hit six three’s in the first 10 minutes of the game to put a legitimate scare into Gonzaga.

Alex Barcello scored 20 points in what could be his final game at BYU. Fellow senior guard Brandon Averette also added 15 points and two assists.

Mark Pope’s squad end the season with a 20-8 record. It was a disappointing night, but on the whole there should be an encouraging feeling in Provo. The Cougars greatly exceeded expectations for a second straight season, and seem firmly re-planted as an at-large contender, and Gonzaga’s greatest WCC foil, on a yearly basis.

UCLA will play Abilene Christian in the next round.