Provo • For the first half and even during halftime when a BYU student made a half-court shot to win an iPad — OK, she might have been over the line by an inch or 100 — everyone was making 3-pointers Saturday night at the Marriott Center.
The Cougars finally put a stop to the madness in the second half, clamping down defensively on Santa Clara’s dead-eye guards after watching them go 6 of 11 from long range in the first 20 minutes. BYU then streaked to a 95-78 win in front of 16,116 in the West Coast Conference game.
“I thought that both teams played well,” BYU coach Dave Rose said. “I thought that offensively both teams were hard to stop.”
In the first half, anyway. Both teams shot better than 50 percent in the opening half, and the heavily favored Cougars had just a 45-42 lead at the break. They limited the Broncos (8-9, 0-4 WCC) to just three 3-pointers and 41 percent shooting in the second half, however, to pick up their fourth straight win.
BYU (15-4, 4-1) will take that modest streak into San Diego for a Monday meeting with the Toreros, meaning that the Cougars headed to the airport immediately after Saturday’s win to avoid traveling on Sunday. Rose half-sung the primary children’s song about using Saturday as a special day to get ready for Sunday as he left the postgame interview room, obviously pleased with the way his team is performing right now.
And why not?
The perimeter defense improved in the second half, and the offense clicked so well that getting to 80 points and free yogurt for everyone who can handle massive lines was a foregone conclusion long before Matt Carlino’s 3-pointer with 5 minutes, 57 seconds remaining made it 81-66 and sent some scurrying to the exits.
“He played terrific,” Rose said, clicking off Carlino’s stats. “He had an outstanding game.”
And so did BYU’s inside players, Brandon Davies and Noah Hartsock, who combined to go 17-for-24 from the field, 9-of-13 from free-throw line, for 44 points. Add in Carlino’s 21, and it was the first time three Cougars scored in the 20s since March 6, 2010, against TCU. BYU has “guys who can make shots all over the floor,” said Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating.
That was evident the first five minutes of the second half, when the Cougars pretty much put the game away by scoring on nine of their first 11 possesions. Davies’ fourth dunk of the contest with 14:44 remaining put BYU ahead 64-50 and allowed coaches to breathe easier.
“I am really proud of our guys for being able to keep up with them, because that’s what we had to do tonight,” Rose said. “We had a hard time stopping them, and we had to score to win this game. Going in, I didn’t think we would need 95 [points] to win, but I thought that we would have to score because I thought this was a really good offensive team.”
The Cougars learned that the WCC’s leading scorer, Kevin Foster, is legitimate after the senior netted 22 points on 6 of 12 shooting. But Foster had just seven of those after halftime.
R In Short • BYU struggles defensively in the first half, but has more than enough firepower to overcome Santa Clara
Key Moment • The Cougars score on nine of their first 11 possessions in the second half to kill the Broncos’ upset hopes
Key Stat • Three BYU players — Brandon Davies, Noah Hartsock and Matt Carlino — score 21 or more points.