It wasn’t pretty, but the BYU Cougars did just enough to outlast the San Francisco Dons 78-74 at the Marriott Center on Thursday night.
In a game where the Cougars struggled to shoot the ball from all over the floor, they made just enough shots to come away with a hard-fought victory. With the win, The Cougars improved to 16-7 on the season, including 6-4 in the West Coast Conference.
Tyler Haws led the way for BYU as he inched ever so close to passing Danny Ainge on the BYU all-time scoring list. He finished with 28 points on 9-for-20 shooting from the floor and 9-for-10 from the free-throw line. The only other player to score in double figures for the Cougars was Anson Winder who registered 11 points, but shot just 3-for-8 from the floor and 5-for-8 from the line. Kyle Collinsworth chipped in with eight points, six rebounds and six assists.
San Francisco had a much more balanced attack as four players scored in double figures. Mark Tollefsen paced the Dons with 22 points on 10-of-14 shooting from the floor to go along with seven rebounds. Matt Christiansen added 13 points on 6-for-8 shooting while Chris Adams and Devin Watson chipped in with 10 points apiece. Matt Glover also made some big contributions with 10 rebounds and seven assists.
Why the Cougars won
BYU was able to get some production out of its center rotation as the big man rotation of Corbin Kaufusi, Ryan Andrus, Luke Worthington and Isaac Neilson combined for 12 points on 4-for-4 shooting from the floor as well as 10 rebounds and two blocked shots. The boast in the scoring column and on the glass went a long way for the Cougars in the win.
The performance of Tyler Haws can’t be overlooked either. With the rest of the team making just 17-of-45 shots from the floor, Haws made shots or got himself to the free-throw line as he contributed 36 percent of the offense.
The turning point
With the Cougars clinging to a one-point lead in the closing minutes of the game, Isaac Neilson came up with a stretch of big plays to give BYU enough cushion to hold on for the win. After entering the game for the first time, Neilson grabbed a defensive rebound on one end, finished a pick-and-roll with a basket in the lane and then took a charge.
What it means
The win pointed BYU in the right direction after a pair of rough losses to end the first half of the conference season at just 5-4. It also showed that the Cougars can’t overlook anyone on its schedule, but that wins are still available even in games where they don’t play particularly well.
Grading the performance
The Cougars didnt play with the sense of urgency that most would have liked. They let the Dons hang around for far too long and it just about cost them in the end. The inside contributions from the post were big, but the guards really struggled to make shots as Winder, Collinsworth, Chase Fischer and Skyler Halford combined to shoot 11-for-36 from the floor, including 2-for-13 from beyond the arc. After absolutely dismantling the Dons on their home floor, this game was far too close.
The Dons hung around the whole night on the strength of a 22-for-35 shooting performance from inside the arc. If they could have shot it better from distance (5-for-21) or the free-throw line(15-for-24) , the outcome would have been different.
They did a nice job rebounding the basketball even though Kruize Pinkins managed just one board. Pinkins wasn’t much better in the scoring department with just eight points on 1-for-6 shooting from the floor and 6-for-8 from the free-throw line.
San Francisco also turned the ball over far too often (17) and struggled in the foul department with 28 team fouls leading to 33 BYU free-throws.
Three telling stats
BYU shot just 3-for-20 (15 percent) from long-range in the win. That is their lowest shooting percent from the 3-point line the entire season, according to Sports-reference.com.
The Cougars registered just eight turnovers against the Dons. That was only the fifth time on the season that BYU had less than 10 turnovers in a game.
The 17 turnovers by San Francisco was the most forced by the Cougars since the win over Southern Virginia (26) during the third game of the season.
The Santa Clara Broncos come calling on Saturday night in a rematch of one of the best showings of the year for the Cougars. The Broncos fell to 11-11 on the season and 5-5 in WCC play with a 69-64 setback against the San Diego Toreros on Thursday night. Before the loss to San Diego, the Broncos had strung together a season-high four-game winning streak to put themselves back in the top half of the WCC standings.
Santa Clara is led by Brandon Clark and Jared Brownridge. Clark is averaging 16.3 points, 3.9 rebounds and 3.9 assists while Brownridge is second on the team with 14.3 points per game to go along with 3.2 rebounds and 2.6 assists.