Not playing all that well on the road again in the West Coast Conference, the Cougars escaped here Thursday night with a 73-65 win over Loyola Marymount in front of 3.073 fans at 4,156-seat Gersten Pavilion.
Just when the Cougars were starting to shift into cruise control mode -- they led 66-53 with 2:41 remaining after Noah Hartsock's basket -- the Lions roared back into it by upping the defensive pressure and taking advantage of a plethora of Cougar miscues.
Before anyone knew it, LMU had trimmed the deficit to 67-65 with around a minute left.
But Anson Winder made two free throws with 47 seconds left and Matt Carlino added two more freebies after an LMU miss about 19 seconds later, and the Cougars had their first road win in the WCC.
"We will have to watch the film and see exactly what happened," BYU coach Dave Rose said of the near-collapse. "It seemed to me like we were still attacking, but we were careless with the ball. We would get ahead of our defender and dribble up and we gotta know the defender is coming from behind and will try to make a play in that situation. I think they made a couple really good plays, as far as hitting shots, tough shots.
Getting stuck with a five-second call out of bounds is kind of inexcusable, so we will have to review that.
It was a really good experience for us, really good to go through it. Much better to go through it and be able to overcome it and win it so we can teach it and grow from it."
Noah Hartsock and Craig Cusick were huge in the second half for the Cougars, with Hartsock scoring 17 of his team-high 21 points after the break and Cusick making three clutch three-pointers in the second half. Cusick got 18 minutes because Matt Carlino had perhaps his worst game as a Cougar.
Carlino was just 1 of 7 from three-point range and 2 of 9 from the field. He took lots of ill-advised shots, and got out of control several times.
"I think that's what makes Matt good, is that he's very confident, and he plays on attack," Rose said when he was asked why Carlino isn't more bashful about shooting. "And he got sped up a couple times tonight. But it is a learning process. He's not only early in his career, as far as playing on the road in league games, but he's very early in this season, for him. I think that if Craig can keep playing well in that backup role, that will give Matt a lot of confidence."
With the game tied at 34-34 coming out of halftime, Rose instructed his players to feed the post more often, especially Hartsock. Brandon Davies also had a decent game, netting his third double-double in his last four outings with a 10-rebound, 15-point performance.
"I think they did a good job in the first half of crowding our post guys and leaving our guards open," Rose said. "Our guards had good looks at the basket and we got a lot of shots, and we didn't make very many of them.
So our emphasis in the second half was to get into our post guys, and have our post guys be a little more patient and see what they do on the double team.
Because they were kind of bringing the double team and then they were coming out of it.
I just thought our post guys played with a lot more aggression in the second half, and our guards did a great job of using them and playing through them."
Another key was BYU's perimeter defense, which held LMU to 5 of 26 shooting from three-point range. The Lions shot just 34.3 percent from the field overall.
"They had a little stretch their in the first half where we guarded them really well, and they made about four tough shots -- tough shot after tough shot after tough shot," Rose said. "I think they really thrive on dribble penetration, they thrive on ball screens, and in the zone it is a little bit tougher to do that.
We threw that zone at them a couple times and they missed a few shots, we had a few run-outs, and we stayed in it for a long time. Probably stayed in [the zone] as much as we have played in a game for a long time."
Thursday's game marked the first action for wing Stephen Rogers since a knee injury sidelined him three weeks ago. Rogers got fouled going up for a dunk, showing no hesitation whatsoever with his knee, and made the free throws. Those were his only points as he went 0-for-3 from the field.
"I am glad we got him on the floor. I am glad he got to feel it. He got a couple free throws to go in, made a couple shots and I think he can really make some progress now in the next two or three days.
He went strong to the basket. It looked like he was pretty confident. So that was good."