When BYU’s Tyler Haws left Saturday’s game against Virginia Tech with just more than three minutes left, his cruel work done, the crowd stood and applauded, his coach congratulated him, his teammates slapped him, and he slapped them back. In a 97-71 chuckler, the sophomore guard had just dropped 42 points on the Hokies, coming off screens, popping from behind the arc, posting up and spinning to the rim, finishing breaks.
“Some nights you’re just feeling it,” Haws said later, his head bobbing. “Those nights are fun.”
And the fun blew straight into the postgame, and now into league play, after BYU accomplished something it hadn’t done thus far this season. It beat what is presumed to be a quality opponent. In previous attempts, mixed in with pedestrian wins, the Cougars had been bumped around by Florida State, Notre Dame, Iowa State and Baylor, losing all of those games by double digits.
“We needed a big win against a big team,” said Josh Sharp, who scored 10 points, including a shut-your-mouth dunk, plus one, that rescued the Cougars after they let a 32-point lead shrink all the way down to 22 points with six minutes left. Yeah, BYU played so well over the initial 20 minutes, thanks to Haws’ 29 first-half points, the thing was over at the break, the Cougars up 56-31.
On this afternoon, then, in a matinee special at EnergySolutions Arena, BYU finally substantiated its now 10-4 record against Va. Tech’s 9-4 mark, a Hokie run that included an earlier Tech road win over Oklahoma State. On the other hand, the Hoksters were coming off a 36-point loss to Colorado State. Draw your own conclusion.
But it was hard to imagine any Cougar team, ever, playing better than this one did early on here. And Dave Rose concurred, hammering the point: “It was about as good as we’ve played.”
BYU hit 60 percent of its shots, including 7 of 14 from 3 in the first, and choked the Hokies at the other end with a zone, holding them to 30 percent shooting. With the ball repeatedly going to Brandon Davies in the low post, and Davies delivering it in timely fashion to open spot-up shooters, the Cougars punished Va. Tech. Haws provided most of the cruelty.
He went 9 for 13 overall and 6 for 8 from beyond the arc in that first half. In the second, what might have been a spectacularly extraordinary performance was downgraded to just extraordinary when Haws hit 5 of 12 shots, finishing at 14 for 25 and 8 for 9 from the foul line.
Rose said his team was looking for Haws, but so were the Hokies: “He had a special night ... the guys rallied around him.”
Speaking for Haws’ teammates, Sharp put it this way: “Tyler never ceases to amaze [us].”
Considering that Haws is coming off an LDS Church mission, his 20-point scoring average is rather remarkable. He has now scored 20-plus points eight times this season. “It takes a special guy to do what he’s doing,” Rose said.
Saturday, Haws was ... Jimmeresque, although, he said, at no time was he thinking about breaking Fredette’s single-game school scoring record of 52 points, despite the fact that prior to his second-half mini-drought he was on target to do so.
“I was just trying to stay aggressive,” he said. “And keep shooting the shots the defense gave me.”
With BYU borrowing the Jazz’s home floor, it was fitting that Jerry Sloan, Phil Johnson and Virginia Tech fan/former assistant coach Kevin O’Connor sat courtside for the game. They might have been taking a peek at the 6-foot-9 Davies, an NBA long shot, who left the game midway through the second half with a dinged ankle after scoring 17 points. What they got an eyeful of, instead, was a skinny kid who shot the ball like Jerry West, except for that short second-half span when he devolved into Mel Counts.
“Jerry used to kick my ass,” Sloan once grumbled.
And that’s exactly what Haws did to the Hokies.
Gordon Monson hosts “The Big Show” weekdays from 3-7 p.m. on 1280 AM and 97.5 FM The Zone. Twitter: @GordonMonson.