Malibu, Calif. • For the first five minutes Saturday night, it appeared the BYU Cougars had brought Thursday’s ugly debacle in Provo with them to the beautiful Pepperdine campus.
They fell behind the frisky, but overmatched, Waves by nine points early, Brandon Davies picked up a technical foul just 23 seconds into the game, and coach Dave Rose was forced to burn a precious timeout and urged his guys to play with poise.
Tiny Firestone Fieldhouse, featuring a sellout crowd of 3,104, was rocking, although close to half of the patrons were cheering for the Cougars.
The Cougars righted their ship at the venue overlooking the Pacific Ocean, however, and eventually achieved a 77-64 West Coast Conference win.
“Credit our guys for responding,” said Rose.
That was especially true of Davies, who scored a career-high 29 points and powered the Cougars out of the 11-2 early deficit, along with Charles Abouo, who scored 13 of his 15 points in the first half.
Trailing 26-25 and still not completely out of their post-Loyola Marymount funk, after having been upset 82-68 by the Lions in Provo, the Cougars reeled off a 17-3 run heading into halftime and held the lead throughout the second half.
Noah Hartsock added 20 points and became the 43rd player in BYU history to surpass the 1,000-point plateau. He now has 1,003.
“It was pretty cool,” Hartsock said. “It took Jimmer [Fredette] one year, but it took four years for me — I will take it.”
And the Cougars will take this win, as ugly as it was, improving to 17-5 overall, 6-2 in league play.
They essentially won the game at the free-throw line, going 29-for-38 from the stripe (Davies was 15-for-18) as the Waves showed they had no answer for Davies and Hartsock inside. Twelve of BYU’s 29 second-half possessions featured at least one free-throw attempt.
Pepperdine was awarded 12 free throws, making eight.
“Our guys were ready to play,” Rose said, discounting the notion that there was some carryover from the LMU loss. “Pepperdine just came out with a real aggressive mindset. We kind of thought they might try to control the tempo with their offense, but they were on full-out attack. They got a nice lead, but our guys fought back.”
Still, Pepperdine started the second half almost as well as it started the first. The Waves (7-12, 1-7 WCC) trimmed the deficit to four points twice in the first 11 minutes of the second half, but each time the Cougars ballooned the lead with clutch free-throw shooting or a timely putback basket by freshman Nate Austin.
Rose stuck with backup point guard Craig Cusick in the second half for defensive purposes, he said, and Cusick finished with four points, two assists and a steal in 23 minutes on the court.
Starting point guard Matt Carlino, a freshman, played just 20 minutes and did not score for the first time in his career. Neither point guard committed a turnover.
“There were a lot of fouls called. It was really physical. We knew as a staff that this would have to be a grind-it-out game for us,” Rose said. “We learned from the other night [when we] just kept firing up 3s and didn’t make them.”
The Cougars were just 2-of-11 from 3-point range, after going 2-of-25 against LMU.
BYU routs Pepperdine
In Short • BYU bounces back from Thursday’s devastating home loss with a workmanlike 77-64 win over Pepperdine.
Key Moment • Trailing 26-25 with six minutes remaining in the first half, the Cougars take control with a 17-3 run before halftime.
Key Stat • Brandon Davies scores a career-high 29 points, making 15 of 18 free-throw attempts.