BYU players said they will continue to support former teammate Brandon Davies "like a brother" despite transgressions that got the starting forwarded kicked off the nation's third-ranked team.
There was no denying the Cougars were a different team in Wednesday night's 82-64 loss to New Mexico. It was their first game without Davies, who on Tuesday was dismissed from the team for the rest of the season for violating the university's honor code.
The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting that Davies engaged in premarital sex, a violation of the clause that says students must remain chaste and virtuous.
"He told us he was sorry and let us down," BYU guard Jimmer Fredette said after the game in which he scored 33 points but was only 1 of 9 from 3-point range. "We told him it's OK. Sometimes in life we make mistakes. We've got to play through it."
No one discussed details of what occurred with Davies but BYU coach Dave Rose discussed the school's controversial honor code.
"Everybody who comes to BYU, every student if they're an athlete or not an athlete, they make a commitment when they come," Rose said of a code that also forbids use of alcohol and coffee and requires students to be honest and attend church regularly. "A lot of people try to judge if this is right or wrong, but it's a commitment they make. It's not about right or wrong. It's about commitment."
Rose said Wednesday's lopsided loss was more than about missing Davies, the third-leading scorer and leading rebounder for the Cougars (27-3, 13-2 Mountain West Conference) who was replaced in the starting lineup by junior James Anderson, who had only one rebound and four points in 11 minutes.
Rose gave New Mexico a great deal of credit.
Phillip McDonald scored 26 points, hitting 5 of 8 from beyond the arc, to lead New Mexico (19-11, 7-8), which beat BYU for the second time this season.
Drew Gordon and Kendall Williams added 15 apiece for the Lobos, while Gordon had 16 rebounds.
The Cougars were outrebounded 45-29 and went 20 of 59 from the field, including a season-worst 5 of 26 from beyond the arc.
"It was everything," Fredette said. "We didn't play well. They shot the ball very well. They played very good."
Despite looking down and battered, Fredette tried to stay positive.
"We don't have time to worry about it," he said, noting the Cougars close the regular season Saturday against Wyoming then have the Mountain West tournament next week in Las Vegas. "We're going to be fine. Lots of good teams come off emotional games and lose the next one no matter (who they're missing). We're going to be all right."
Davies awaits a decision by an honor code committee that will decide his future both at the school and whether he could play next season.
Rose was optimistic things would turn out OK for Davies, who went to school officials and acknowledged his transgressions.
"I think Brandon's heart is in the right place, and I think that he wants to continue his education here at BYU, but there are a lot of things that are yet to be determined," Rose said.
Asked if he thought Davies would play basketball again, Rose said, "I believe so."
The Cougars can still claim a share of the Mountain West regular-season title if they finish 14-2. But the number they really want is the coveted No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament.
That looks like a long shot now even though the Cougars still have a national player of the year candidate in Fredette.
Fredette was 10 of 26 from the field in a game that saw BYU try to find the right combination on the court without Davies.
BYU started Anderson in Davies' place but Rose quickly went to Plan B and inserted Kyle Collinsworth.
Not much seemed to work as BYU's inside game disappeared. The Cougars made just 8 of 30 shots in the first half and were outrebounded 25-14 as the Lobos took a 42-26 lead.
"We found a lineup that we were really comfortable playing, a lineup we started the (previous) 20 games," Rose said. "Now we need to find the next comfortable lineup. Tonight we could not find it."
Falling behind so quickly then taking so many perimeter shots didn't help.
The Cougars came in averaging 83 points a game and shooting 38 percent from 3-point range. They finished 5 of 26 on 3-pointers.
A three-point play by Charles Abouo pulled BYU within 48-37 with 14:41 left, and Fredette had a chance to cut it even further. But he missed a 3-pointer and McDonald countered with a 3 to bump New Mexico's lead to 51-37. The Lobos' 11-0 run continued with a 3-pointer from Jamal Fenton.
"We beat them at the 3-point line, which is a shocker," New Mexico coach Steve Alford said. "I didn't anticipate us beating them at the 3-point line, but holding them to five 3s that's a big key. So defensively we did what we wanted to do and offensively we made some shots. And when this team makes shots, we're pretty good."
New Mexico, which beat the Cougars 86-77 on Jan. 29, were ready at the opening tip.
The Lobos hit their first four shots and six of their first seven in taking leads of 10-2 and 27-12.
"Obviously with the news it was tough to deal with," Abouo said. "We care a lot for our guys. (Davies) is like a brother to me. We just have to move forward. We don't have time to think about the negative things. We had a good New Mexico team coming in here but obviously our thoughts and prayers were with Brandon."
With Davies gone, more of the burden fell to guards Jackson Emery and Fredette. But they were a combined 5 of 17 in the first half.
New Mexico shot 50 percent in the first half and finished 9 of 20 on 3s.
The partisan BYU crowd tried to keep the faith, with signs that read "Believe" and "We Still Got Jimmer."
The Cougars have little time to regain the momentum after losing Davies, who was third on the team in scoring behind Fredette and Emery.
"We'll regroup," Rose said.