Santa Clara, Calif. • Don’t look now — and not many were Saturday night at the Leavey Center — but the BYU Cougars have played their way back into the West Coast Conference basketball race.
Getting a big lift from their bench, the Cougars routed Santa Clara 91-81 in front of a small crowd of 2,560 split almost evenly between BYU and SCU supporters.
Counted out by many two weeks ago after they dropped a pair of WCC road games to open league play, the Cougars (5-2, 13-7) have now won five straight games, the last two on the road, to move into second place behind 6-1 Gonzaga.
“Coming out here and being able to win two on the road gives our guys some real confidence, new life,” coach Dave Rose said. “This puts us in position now that if we continue to win, we will be in good shape.”
The game could not have started any worse for BYU and leading scorer Tyler Haws. He picked up two fouls in the first 49 seconds of the game, and watched the rest of the half from the bench.
However, Haws’ backup at the wing position, Anson Winder, came off the bench to play a Haws-like first half, scoring all 16 of his points in the first 20 minutes and sparking the Cougars to a 47-30 lead at the break.
“We all felt like we needed to step up,” Winder said. “That’s probably the quickest I have ever seen a player get two fouls, ever.”
It was a new experience for Haws as well. He finished with 16 points, going 5 of 8 from the field after halftime.
“That was a pretty crazy deal,” Haws said. “I tried to keep my head it in the whole half [on the bench]. And guys really stepped up. … I was proud of those guys.”
Matt Carlino also delivered when he needed to, scoring nine of his 15 in the first half. The Cougars made 7 of 11 3-point attempts and shot 61.5 percent from the field. Kyle Collinsworth chipped in 18 points to lead BYU in scoring for the second straight game.
The Cougars got 35 points from their bench, a high for conference play.
“That was quick, that’s what I thought,” Rose said of Haws’ early foul trouble. “Probably as quick as I have ever seen it. We just had to figure out something else.”
Turns out, Anson was the answer.
“There are days in practice when Anson really gets it going and shoots the ball really well,” Haws said.
That was realized by Santa Clara, which played without starters Evan Roquemore and John McArthur. They sat out due to academic difficulties.
BYU never trailed after the first few minutes, but there were some anxious moments in the second half.
The Cougars stretched a 17-point lead at halftime to 22 in the first six minutes of the second half, then watched Santa Clara put together a 12-0 run to get back in it and get its supporters on their feet.
Collinsworth finally made a pair of free throws with 10:54 remaining to end the Cougars’ scoring drought, and a basket by Haws, a 3-pointer by Carlino and a basket by Josh Sharp off a set play righted the visitors.
The Cougars had another 24-point lead, 78-54, with 5:36 remaining, then watched Jared Brownridge and Brandon Clark get the Broncos within shouting distance with a barrage of 3-pointers. Browning finished with 30 points and Clark had 20, but the twosome combined to take 42 shots in Roquemore’s absence.
“Roquemore is hard to replace,” Rose said.
But the Cougars weren’t about to give this one back against a team that won at Saint Mary’s last week on a last-second shot by Brownridge.
“We are happy with the win,” Haws said. “We will take the win. Obviously, there are things to improve on. … We will look at it on film and get better, but we are happy with the win.”
BYU 91, Santa Clara 81
Mika 5-11 0-0 10, Austin 1-1 0-1 2, Haws 5-8 6-6 16, Collinsworth 5-9 8-12 18, Halford 4-5 0-0 10, Carlino 5-9 2-5 15, Sharp 2-2 0-1 4, Winder 5-7 4-4 16, Bartley IV 0-0 0-0 0.
Totals 32-52 20-29 91.
SANTA CLARA (10-11)
Brown 2-3 4-5 8, Atanga 0-1 0-0 0, Clark 8-21 2-2 20, Richard 1-4 2-5 5, Brownridge 9-21 8-8 30, Johnson 2-5 0-0 5, Clarke 0-1 0-0 0, Papenfus 0-0 0-0 0, Garrett 3-3 0-0 6, Kratch 2-2 2-2 7.
Totals 27-61 18-22 81.
Halftime—BYU 47-30. 3-Point Goals—BYU 7-11 (Carlino 3-5, Halford 2-2, Winder 2-3, Haws 0-1), Santa Clara 9-25 (Brownridge 4-11, Clark 2-8, Johnson 1-1, Kratch 1-1, Richard 1-4). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—BYU 36 (Austin, Collinsworth 7), Santa Clara 27 (Atanga 6). Assists—BYU 22 (Carlino 9), Santa Clara 14 (Clark 7). Total Fouls—BYU 21, Santa Clara 26. A—2,560.