Provo • The last couple of days haven’t been easy for the Cougars after Matthew Dellavedova of Saint Mary’s hit a buzzer-beater a few feet inside the half-court line to give them their first league loss, and there was some genuine concern among BYU’s coaching staff that the loss would linger into Saturday’s contest with league-leading San Diego.
Turns out, those fears were unfounded. The Cougars’ stars and seniors didn’t let it happen.
Tyler Haws scored a game-high 25 points, Brandon Davies overcame Wednesday’s poor performance with 17 points and seven rebounds, and the Cougars buried the Toreros 74-57 in front of 17,281 at the Marriott Center.
“The fact that you can come back from a disappointing loss, and you can snap back and ... your guys are laying it out there, it shows these guys really care and they care about each other,” said BYU coach Dave Rose, who picked up his 200th career win. “That’s a good place for your team to be. I am excited about the win and look forward to a huge challenge next week.”
Of course, that huge challenge is No. 8 Gonzaga, which ironically finds itself feeling like BYU felt Thursday and Friday because the Zags lost on a buzzer-beater at Butler on Saturday night about 20 minutes after the Cougars handed San Diego its first league loss.
“Unbelievable,” Rose said when he entered the postgame interview room, having caught the last few minutes of the Zags’ second loss.
For a few minutes Saturday, San Diego (11-9, 4-1 WCC) looked capable of knocking off BYU (15-5, 5-1 WCC), taking an early 10-5 lead as Ken Rancifer knocked down a couple of early 3-pointers. Then the Cougars went on a 12-2 run, as the first media timeout never came because there was never a dead ball.
San Diego coach Bill Grier finally got a timeout with 12:52 remaining in the first half, but the damage was done. Another run by BYU pushed the Cougars’ lead to 39-20 before sharpshooter Johnny Dee heated up just before halftime. The 6-foot guard made three straight 3-pointers during that stretch, but didn’t do much else and finished with 15 points on 5-for-13 shooting.
“Brock [Zylstra] did a great job on him,” Rose said.
The Cougars were just 3 for 14 from 3-point range, but used their size advantage inside to win the rebound battle 44-29 and outscore the Toreros 32-18 in the paint. The Cougars scored 17 points off turnovers and 16 points on fast breaks.
“They’re good,” Grier said of the Cougars. “They did a really good job in transition. With the mistakes we made, they scored nearly every time in transition, and we just didn’t do a very good job on the offensive end.”
Trying to get to 5-0 for the first time ever in league play, the Toreros shot just 36.7 percent from the field and 61 percent from the free-throw line.
“We had to overcome quite a lot of things,” Rose said. “We had some foul trouble, didn’t shoot the ball particularly well from the perimeter. But I thought we guarded well, rebounded well. I thought we got a lot of help from a lot of guys.”
With Josh Sharp in foul trouble, Nate Austin played 32 minutes off the bench and grabbed nine rebounds. Matt Carlino didn’t shoot well (5-for-14), but he stayed in front of USD point guard Chris Anderson (13 points) and handed out six assists with no turnovers.
“It was good to bounce back like that after getting stung like [they did], after a heartbreaker,” Zylstra said. “Coach talked in the locker room about how the character of a team is shown by how fast you get back up after you’ve been hit. They were 4-0, they are a great team. So we played well tonight.”
Storylines Cougs cruise to win
R The Cougars bounce back with an easy win over league-leading San Diego.
• Tyler Haws scores a game-high 25 points and BYU wins the rebounding battle, 44-29.