BYU basketball: Jaxson Robinson hints that he might return to BYU after monster game in NCAA Tournament loss to Duquesne

Brigham Young Cougars guard Jaxson Robinson (2) shoots a 3-point basket with Duquesne Dukes forward David Dixon (2) on defense during the game between the Brigham Young Cougars and the Duquesne Dukes in the first round of the 2024 NCAA Tournament at the CHI Health Center in Omaha on Thursday, March 21, 2024.

OMAHA, Nebraska — Brilliant moments were few and far between for BYU on Thursday as the No. 6 seeded Cougars were upset 71-67 by 11th-seeded Duquesne in an NCAA Tournament first-round game at CHI Health Center.

However, the Cougars’ best player, senior Jaxson Robinson, shined like a star. The transfer from Texas A&M and Arkansas scored 25 points on 8 of 15 shooting in the loss that coach Mark Pope called “universally devastating and terrible.”

It has been widely assumed that Robinson would forgo his final season of eligibility next year and declare for the NBA draft, but after the heartbreaking loss the native of Ada, Oklahoma, left open the possibility of returning to BYU.

“This loss sucks,” Robinson said, when asked what playing at BYU meant to him. “Like coach Pope said, (I) want to be back here (in the tournament) next year. I’m already thinking about that.”

Pope shot an amused, surprised, sideward glance at Robinson on the podium and quipped: “We can make that happen right now.”

It was one of the few lighthearted moments on an otherwise somber day for the program.

“Coach Pope has been a great coach,” Robinson said. “He’s helped me so much, mentored me. I wouldn’t be here without him. He took a chance on me, and I’m forever in debt (to him) for that.”

If it was the 6-foot-7 Robinson’s last game as a Cougar, he made it a special one.

He singlehandedly kept the Cougars in the game in the first half, scoring 13 points off the bench, to help them overcome another horrendous start.

His free throws with 14:52 remaining in the half marked BYU’s first points of the game, and his 3-pointer at 13:37 marked BYU’s first field goal. Without Robinson, BYU would have lost by 20, at least.

Point guard Dallin Hall agreed after recording 11 points, six assists and four steals himself.

“Jaxson is my guy. That is my brother. Whatever he decides to do, I am going to support him wholeheartedly. He is a big time player, he’s an NBA guy. There are a lot of different opinions, I know, but that dude can play in the league. He’s got a very dynamic skillset and he is an ultimate competitor. He’s a big time player and I wish him the best,” Hall said.

“Hopefully things work out going forward for him, and if not we are happy to have him back.”

The Cougars started the second half slowly as well — with Robinson on the bench — and fell behind 46-32 at the under 16-minutes media timeout.

With BYU trailing 50-42, Robinson scored on three straight possessions to get the Cougars back in it, sandwiching a 3-pointer with two driving baskets.

His 3-pointer with 5:09 remaining got BYU within a point, 55-54, but he didn’t get off another shot.

In reality, Robinson not seeing the ball in the final five minutes and bad starts to both halves are the reasons the Cougars lost.

“I’m not really sure what the answer is to that (poor start question),” Robinson said. “I think it is something that we’ve … tried to get better at.. It is unfortunate we couldn’t start the game how we wanted to. That’s all I have to say about that.”

Another player who definitely participated in his last game as a Cougar, sixth-year senior Spencer Johnson, also went out with a bang. He had 11 points and 16 rebounds in the loss.

“For me, it has been an absolute dream to be able to play here for four years. To see the growth that we’ve taken as a program, as individuals, it has been incredible,” Johnson said.

“I am so grateful to everybody — our administration, our athletic directors, coaches, the entire staff. It has been so awesome.”