Provo • The BYU Cougars can now say they’ve defeated every team in the West Coast Conference since joining the league back in 2011-12.
Tyler Haws and Kyle Collinsworth combined for 53 points and the Cougars overcame a horrible start to dump Saint Mary’s 84-71 in front of 17,982 fans at the Marriott Center. Saint Mary’s had defeated BYU four straight times before Saturday’s contest. The rematch is in two weeks in Moraga, Calif.
“It feels really good to finally beat those guys,” Haws said.
Coach Dave Rose acknowledged the futility streak against SMC weighed heavily on the Cougars’ minds before the game, and “it really wasn’t a positive thing.” Rose said the Cougars started the game like they were trying to win two games, and it took some time to get them to settle down and just play.
Saint Mary’s led 28-14 before the Cougars got on track.
“I thought our guys really responded well after the first eight or 10 minutes,” Rose said. “Our guys were really good the last 30 minutes of this game.”
A late run just before intermission got the Cougars back into it, and Saint Mary’s led just 38-37 at halftime, blowing that 14-point lead and running out of gas, much like BYU did last Saturday at Gonzaga in the second half.
“Yeah, I could see that,” Collinsworth said.
BYU started to pull away when Haws hit a 3-pointer to give the Cougars a 46-44 lead with 16 minutes remaining. Haws finished with 33 points and Collinsworth had 20. It was the seventh time Haws, the nation’s third-leading scorer with a 24.2 average, has scored 30 or more points in a game this season.
Haws has scored 142 points in his last four games.
“I just find my rhythm and my teammates do a good job of getting me the ball where I can be effective,” Haws said.
Rose found it “interesting” in his postgame interview that he fielded six or seven questions and not one was about Haws, whose big nights are starting to get routine.
“That’s amazing,” Rose said of Haws’ streak.
Brad Waldow had his way scoring in the early going and led Saint Mary’s with 25 points. But the burly 6-foot-9 junior picked up a technical foul, his fourth foul, for throwing his mouthpiece in disgust when he was called for traveling with 12:09 remaining. Two free throws by Haws and Eric Mika’s basket pushed the lead to 56-47 and SMC got no closer than seven the rest of the way.
BYU (15-9, 7-4) moved back into a tie for second place in the WCC with San Francisco. Saint Mary’s (16-7, 6-4) dropped to fourth.
“All of us were kind of in a weird spot those first eight or nine minutes,” Haws said.
The game got ugly in the final minute when SMC’s Garrett Jackson threw a forearm shiver at Mika and was assessed a flagrant 2 foul and ejected from the game.
Rebounding helped the Cougars in the second half, after Saint Mary’s led that category 22-17 in the first half. After getting out-rebounded in all four of their previous games against the Gaels, the Cougars won the rebounding battle 38-33. The Cougars won “all the hustle stats,” Rose said.
The Cougars shot 55.6 percent in the second half, and held SMC to 36.4 percent in the final 20 minutes. The Gaels were just 5 of 18 from 3-point range.
“That was a big part of our game plan, to limit their [3-point] attempts,” Rose said.
The Gaels came out firing on all cylinders. Stephen Holt keyed the quick start, and finished with 16 points.
Playing in front of by far the largest crowd of the season for them, Saint Mary’s couldn’t sustain it.
The Gaels made just two field goals in the first half’s final eight minutes, despite the fact that BYU’s Mika and Nate Austin were on the bench with two fouls each.
Luke Worthington fouled out and didn’t score in 10 minutes, a feat Haws referred to as a “Bronson effort,” alluding to Bronson Kaufusi, the football player who helped the basketball team last year. Rose called Worthington’s work “great minutes,” praising the freshman’s effort.
BYU 84, Saint Mary’s 71
•Tyler Haws scores a game-high 33 points and BYU defeats Saint Mary’s for the first time as a member of the West Coast Conference.
• Saint Mary’s leads by 14 points in the first half before the Cougars stage a furious comeback to trail by just a point at the break.
•Kyle Collinsworth scores 20 points and grabs nine rebounds for BYU.