BYU basketball takes another loss at Battle 4 Atlantis to Butler

Butler 75, BYU 70

For BYU, the past couple of days in The Bahamas haven’t felt much like paradise.

For the second consecutive night, the Cougars lost a game in The Battle 4 Atlantis on Paradise Island.

This time, on Thanksgiving night, BYU fell 75-70 to Butler in the consolation round at Imperial Arena.

“We’re learning a lot about ourselves. We learned a lot about ourselves last night,” said coach Mark Pope. “I thought the guys made significant improvements from yesterday in some of the ways we approached the game. We still came up empty tonight. That’s really, really discouraging. But we’ll continue to get better. These games give you an opportunity to do it.”

Cougar sophomore Fousseyni Traore scored a game-high, and season-high, 21 points on 8 of 12 shooting from the field and grabbed a game-high 12 rebounds (tying his career-high). He was also 5 of 6 from the free throw line.

“I just have to keep believing in myself and keep working,” Traore said of his performance.

However, reminiscent of BYU’s setback Wednesday to USC that saw Trojan guard Boogie Ellis pour in a career-high 27 points, Butler’s Jayden Taylor and Eric Hunter Jr. could not be stopped. Taylor and Hunter scored 20 and 19 points, respectively, and they each knocked down three 3-pointers.

Butler (4-2) outshot BYU 53% to 42% from the floor. The Cougars made just 3 of 20 3-pointers.

BYU (3-3) outrebounded the Bulldogs 39-27 and grabbed 17 offensive rebounds. The Cougars outscored Butler in the paint 46-34.

Turnovers have been a glaring weakness for BYU this season. The Cougars committed only 13 against Butler while forcing the Bulldogs into 16. BYU scored 21 points off Bulldog turnovers.

“Throughout these stretch of games, coach has emphasized how important it is to take care of the ball,” said guard Rudi Williams, who finished with 12 points. “I feel like 13 is more than we probably wanted to but it’s on the decline. We’re going to keep working on that and minimizing that number.”

The Cougars just couldn’t overcome a poor shooting night from 3-point territory.

Still, BYU had plenty of chances to pull out a win.

A jumper by Traore with 3:11 remaining cut BYU’s deficit to 66-63, then a steal by Gideon George and subsequent layup by Williams made it 66-65.

But every time the Cougars drew close, the Bulldogs responded. Hunter buried a 3-pointer with 2:08 left. An and-one by George sliced ​​the deficit to 69-68. BYU never could seize a lead late.

George, who ended up with 14 points and six rebounds, missed a 3 with 18 seconds remaining and Butler hit four clutch free throws over the final 12 seconds to seal the victory.

“They made really big plays down the stretch,” Pope said. “It was a great win for them.”

Trailing 37-30 at halftime, the Cougars went on a 12-0 run to start the second half, including 3-pointers by Williams and Jaxson Robinson.

But BYU failed to make another 3-pointer the rest of the game.

In all, Butler had four players score in double figures. Manny Bates and Simas Lukosius scored 14 apiece for the Bulldogs.

Unfortunately for the Cougars, guard Spencer Johnson absorbed a blow late in the game, preventing him from being on the floor during the crucial final moments.

“Spencer had a little health issue,” Pope said. “We’ll see what that turns out to be.”

BYU will look to salvage a win in its Battle 4 Atlantis appearance Friday (1:30 pm, MST, ESPNU) when it takes on Dayton (3-3).

The Flyers lost 76-64 to North Carolina State earlier Thursday.

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