Provo • New West Coast Conference foes, BYU and Pacific played a basketball game against each other for the first time in more than 17 years Thursday night.
Aside from Tyler Haws, the BYU guard who passed more scoring milestones, not many will want to watch the Cougars and Tigers play again.
In a physical, ugly, foul-filled contest that got chippy and then lethargic at the end, the Cougars recorded an 88-78 win to snap their two-game losing skid and keep the Tigers in last place in the WCC. Haws scored a game-high 38 points, including 24 in the first half, in front of a crowd of 14,262 at the Marriott Center.
So the Cougars improved to 6-4 in league play, 14-9 overall, and now turn their thoughts to Saint Mary’s, the team they will host Saturday (9 p.m., ESPN2) and the only team they have never defeated as a member of the WCC. The Gaels lost 61-43 at San Diego on Thursday.
“We know the challenge that is ahead of us,” Haws said.
But first things first. The Cougars played one of their better games of the season against Pacific (11-9, 2-7), at least until the last four minutes, when the Tigers took a big chunk out of what was a 23-point deficit.
Pacific’s late rally against the Cougars’ substitutes made their fans in Las Vegas happy, and perhaps gave the Tigers a shot of confidence when they meet again Feb. 13 in Stockton, Calif. The Tigers got 45 points from their bench, 33 from their starters.
“I thought our execution was good at times, and I thought our energy was good the whole game,” BYU coach Dave Rose said. “You look at the stats of 17 offensive rebounds and 10 steals, that tells you that our guys are pretty active and involved, and playing with good energy and urgency.”
That’s the new word the Cougars are using these days — urgency — after seeing their league title hopes slip away with two losses on their recent road trip.
Certainly, they showed that at the start, especially Haws.
With Pacific inexplicably leaving the nation’s fifth-best scorer wide open several times in the first 10 minutes, Haws made 8 of his first 9 shots and had 21 points when he took a breather midway through the first half.
“I got to give a lot of credit to my teammates, and the way they found me in transition,” Haws said. “I think I got lost a few times in transition. And we just run good stuff.”
Freshman forward Eric Mika tied a career high with 20 points and added eight rebounds, while Kyle Collinsworth and Skyler Halford chipped in 10 points each.
But this was Haws’ night from the get-go, again.
He finished 10 of 11 from the line and 12 of 20 from the field in posting his Marriott Center high. More importantly, he was 4 of 5 from 3-point range as the Cougars re-discovered their perimeter offense. They were 8 of 18 from 3-point range, after knocking down just two 3-pointers in last week’s 84-69 loss at Gonzaga.
“I think it just kind of happened,” Haws said of his 3-point prowess. “I just kind of got in a rhythm, and when I find my rhythm at the 3-point line, I tend to keep shooting them.”
Big nights from Haws are getting to be the routine — it was the ninth time he has scored 30 or more points — but Rose surmised it might be too much of a good thing.
“Right now we are relying on him, maybe relying on him a little bit too much,” Rose said. “Hopefully, we can spread this out a little bit.”
The game did get mildly interesting. The Tigers trimmed BYU’s 49-36 lead to four with a 9-0 run early in the second half, causing Rose to take a timeout to regroup with 16:55 remaining in the game.
The Cougars promptly went on a 14-2 run to right their ship, and could start looking ahead to Saturday’s showdown.
“It was a good little stretch right there,” Rose said.
O Tyler Haws surpasses his previous Marriott Center-high with 38 points as the Cougars rout last-place Pacific.
• Haws makes 8 of his first 9 shots and scores 21 points in the game’s first 10 minutes.
• Freshman forward Eric Mika ties his career high with 20 points, and adds eight rebounds.
BYU 88, Pacific 78
Harris 0-3 0-0 0, Taku 3-6 2-2 9, Bock 3-5 7-9 13, Kelley 2-4 0-0 4, Rivera 1-3 4-4 7, Wallace 3-8 2-2 8, Llewellyn 0-0 0-0 0, Aguirre 0-0 5-6 5, Short 2-2 0-0 5, Taylor 2-4 0-1 5, Gill 6-9 0-0 15, Thomas 3-3 1-2 7.
Totals 25-47 21-26 78.
Mika 7-9 6-8 20, Haws 12-20 10-11 38, Collinsworth 2-9 6-8 10, Halford 3-10 1-2 10, Austin 2-2 3-4 7, Carlino 1-5 0-0 3, Sharp 0-0 0-1 0, Johnston 0-0 0-0 0, Winder 0-0 0-0 0, Bartley IV 0-2 0-2 0, Worthington 0-0 0-0 0.
Totals 27-57 26-36 88.
Halftime—BYU 45-34. 3-Point Goals—Pacific 7-17 (Gill 3-5, Rivera 1-1, Short 1-1, Taku 1-1, Taylor 1-3, Bock 0-1, Harris 0-2, Wallace 0-3), BYU 8-18 (Haws 4-5, Halford 3-9, Carlino 1-4). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Pacific 24 (Gill 5), BYU 35 (Austin, Mika 8). Assists—Pacific 13 (Bock, Short 4), BYU 19 (Carlino 6). Total Fouls—Pacific 27, BYU 23. Technicals—Harris, Collinsworth. A—14,262.