San Diego • For a precious few minutes on Monday night, the San Diego Toreros appeared poised to get a little bit of revenge for that 36-point beatdown they took 17 days ago in Provo.
BYU’s big guys, Noah Hartsock and Brandon Davies, started the rematch as if their minds were elsewhere, San Diego’s Dennis Kramer was playing like a West Coast Conference Player of the Year candidate, and the younger brother of the Utah Jazz’s C.J. Miles was taking the ball hard to the hoop and collecting 3-point plays.
But the Cougars turned to Plan B, as it were, and used 17 points from Brock Zylstra and 14 apiece from Matt Carlino and Charles Abouo to win their fifth straight game. After that herky-jerky opening act, they streaked past the Toreros 82-63 in front of 3,204 fans at the “Slim Gym,” otherwise known as Jenny Craig Pavilion.
“For us, it was a little bit different all night because our post guys the last two or three games scored so consistently,” Rose said. “San Diego was determined not to let that happen. So we had to find other ways to score.”
The Cougars improved to 5-1 with their second road win in the WCC, 15-4 overall, and were just as happy with the effort as they were on New Year’s Eve when they swamped USD 88-52 in Provo.
“We definitely felt better as we got going,” Abouo said.
They really got going just before halftime. After Rose called a timeout with 24 seconds remaining to set up a play, Carlino found Zylstra open on the wing, and Zylstra’s 3-pointer three seconds before the horn gave the Cougars a 37-29 lead and all the momentum going into the break.
“That was huge,” Abouo said.
Zylstra opened the second half with another 3-pointer — he finished 5 of 8 from 3-point range — and the Cougars were off to the races, bouyed by a pro-BYU crowd and with USD’s students not yet back from the holiday break.
“San Diego did a really good job of attacking our post guys early in the game, as far as bringing a second defender,” Rose said. “We got some really good looks at the basket, we just didn’t make them. But our guys kept their composure.”
Eventally, the shots started falling, and the Cougars figured out how to slow Kramer, who finished with a team-high 15 for USD. Like he did on Jan. 5 at Loyola Marymount, point guard Craig Cusick hit a couple of big 3-pointers off the bench, and Davies, despite taking the usual harassment from a visiting crowd for the honor-code violation that cut short his sophomore season, overcame a 3-for-9 shooting night with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
“What a beast,” Abouo said.
Hartsock had one of his worst shooting nights as a Cougar, going 2-for-12 for seven points, the first time all season the second-leading scorer in the WCC has failed to reach double figures in scoring.
“The way things have kind of played out this year, we haven’t seen that [from Hartsock],” Rose said. “As a staff, we are really pleased that you take [away] the guy who has really been our anchor consistent all the way through ... and we find some other guys who can make plays and we figure out a way to win.”
About the only negative for the Cougars was that junior Stephen Rogers appeared to reinjure his surgically repaired right knee while making his only basket, in the first half. He spent the second half watching from the bench with an ice bag wrapped to his knee and will be re-evaluated when the Cougars get back to Provo.
Storylines BYU 82,San Diego 63
R In short • With its post players struggling to score, BYU gets production from its guards and rolls to a victory at San Diego.
Key moment • Brock Zylstra hits a 3-pointer just before the halftime buzzer, giving the Cougars an eight-point lead.