Provo • The dividend of more than 20,000 fans rocking the Marriott Center, even those who came strictly for the game, paid full value down the stretch for BYU.
On a special Saturday night devoted to impress Chicago recruit Jabari Parker — complete with unique T-shirts, signs and a student chant — the Cougars made the strongest pitch of all by handing Cal State Northridge its first loss of the season, 87-75.
BYU’s defense and the special offensive ability of Tyler Haws proved too much for the Matadors, outscored 14-1 in the final four minutes.
“One of the real challenges as you prepare for a team that is 6-0, that is enough games in season [to show CSUN] has a great will to win and you have to break that,” BYU coach Dave Rose said. “It didn’t come easy. I was really proud of the way our guys continued to attack even in tough situations.”
At times it was more frustrating that tough. BYU (4-2) threatened continually to blow out to a double-digit lead, only to see Northridge work its way back.
For example, the Cougars went on a 9-0 run late in the first half and took a nine-point advantage. CSUN cut that to six at the half.
Stephan Hicks scored a team-high 25 points for CSUN, while Stephen Maxwell added 17.
A Hicks jumper gave the Matadors a 74-73 lead with a tick more than four minutes to play.
That’s when BYU’s defense came alive. Northridge had been beating the Cougars with inside penetration, which opened up the rest of the Matador offense.
The Cougars shut that down, then watched as Haws went off with eight points.
“I was just trying to make the play that was there and be aggressive,” said Haws, who finished with a career-high 32 points.
Rose went farther, crediting Haws’ fearless style, smarts and conditioning for allowing the sophomore to eventually defeat Hicks’ defensive pressure and take over.
“It’s probably an understatement, but Ty’s a winner,” Rose said. “He’s extremely confident in his ability to make plays.
“He has no fear of getting fouled. When he steps to the foul line, he’s a really confident guy. Those two things can really make a late-game player.”
To underscore that, Haws, 9-of-17 from the field, was perfect in 12 tries from the foul line.
Overall, the final numbers told of a close game as BYU held a slight edge in rebounds and turnovers.
But CSUN also missed six shots in the final four minutes, a free throw with 20 seconds to play the Matadors’ lone score.
“I think it was the energy of the crowd, the team,” said Brock Zylstra, who knocked down a couple key 3s to stop Northridge runs. “We knew down the stretch we had to get some stops, we had to make some plays. Tyler made some big shots, but defensively we were all in it together.”
BYU 87, CSU Northridge 75
R Tyler Haws scores eight of his career-high 32 points in the final four minutes.
• BYU’s offense outscores Cal State Northridge 14-1 down the stretch.
• BYU forward Brandon Davies scores 12 and adds eight rebounds.