After losing to USF, BYU coach Mark Pope points the finger where only he can: at himself

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PROVO — Tyrell Roberts must really enjoy playing BYU.

In last year’s NIT Quarterfinals, the Washington State Guard scored 11 points in a 77-58 victory over the Cougars. A year and a transfer later, Roberts surpassed even that.

The graduate transfer gave San Francisco a record 30 points, including four 3-pointers, as the Dons raced to a big lead and never looked back in an 82-74 win over BYU at War Memorial Gym at San Francisco’s Sobrato Center .

Khalil Shabazz added 21 points and five rebounds for the Dons (14-9, 3-5 WCC), and Zane Meeks scored 13.

Rudi Williams scored a season-high 28 points on 10-of-12 shooting to lead the Cougars, who have now lost three of their last four games. It is the fifth time all season that Williams has topped the 20-point plateau, coming off the bench in all but one game.

Jaxson Robinson added 11 points, four rebounds and two assists for the Cougars; and Gideon George had 12 points, five rebounds and three steals. Fousseyni Traore added 10 points and three rebounds for BYU (14-9, 4-4 WCC).

Instead of preparing for a standalone game with league-leader Saint Mary’s this Saturday, the Cougars must now turn in after what may be the worst part of the season, its only four-game run with three losses and only the third consecutive setbacks in 2022-23.

“Unfortunately for us, it’s not a laser focus week for Saint Mary’s,” said BYU coach Mark Pope, who took all the blame for the loss himself in his postgame interview with BYU Radio. “Last night the wheels fell off the bus and that is disappointing.

“We’ve taken a big step back, and that’s 100% for me,” he added. “I need to get my act together and we need to find some answers.”

The head coach later said that the Cougars “didn’t win any facet” of the game and were “brutally coached out”, something that was “very, very concerning”.

“We have good players and they want to get better and they want to win, but we took a big step back and that’s 100% for me,” said Pope. “I need to get my act together and find some answers because we should never have a performance like this — ever, ever, ever, ever, ever.”

Still, this one had a similar theme to Santa Clara 48 hours earlier: 15 turnovers leading to 25 points. The main difference? BYU never led Saturday night.

Like Thursday, the Cougars got off to a torrid start. San Francisco hit four 3-pointers in the first six minutes, and the Dons used a 13–3 run to take a 16–5 lead with 14:44 left in the half.

USF turned 11 turnovers into 18 points in the first half, but BYU fought back and crept within five on George’s layup with 5:39 left—his first field goal made in nearly three games.

But Roberts had 16 points, and the Dons made seven 3-pointers and went 8-for-8 from the free throw line to help the hosts gain the 37–28 halftime advantage.

San Francisco led by as many as 16 in the second half, but BYU shot more than 59% from the field to narrow the deficit by a few digits a few times.

The Cougars just couldn’t get any closer as the Dons put down 12 three-pointers and made 24 of 27 free throws to get to the finish line, overcoming 17 turnovers that BYU converted to 19 points.

Ironically, the Cougars finished plus two in turnover margin, thanks to 11 steals that helped force 17 turnovers. The 19 points of turnover helped keep it close, but only so far.

“We have to get our hearts straight first,” said Pope. “That’s the most disappointing part, and that comes from my leadership. Then we have to get our thoughts right. Then we have to be able to execute.

“This is on me. It’s not these guys; it’s 100% mine.”

San Francisco guards Tyrell Roberts against Arizona State during an NCAA University basketball game in San Francisco, Wednesday, December 21, 2022. Roberts scored a career-high 30 points in USF's 82-74 victory over BYU, Saturday, January 21, 2023 at the Hilltop.
San Francisco guards Tyrell Roberts against Arizona State during an NCAA University basketball game in San Francisco, Wednesday, December 21, 2022. Roberts scored a career-high 30 points in USF’s 82-74 victory over BYU, Saturday, January 21, 2023 at the Hilltop. (Photo: Jeff Chiu, Associated Press)

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Sean Walker, a proud graduate of Syracuse University, has been covering BYU for KSL.com since 2015, while also dabbling in prep sports, education and anything else his editors throw at him.

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