Perhaps big Nate Austin said it best: "It was a game that we had to win, and we got it done."
With their NCAA Tournament at-large hopes hanging in the balance, the Cougars pulled out a 78-70 win at San Diego on Saturday afternoon, clinching the WCC’s second seed in the process.
As Kyle Collinsworth said, it was a "weird" game, played in front of 3,889 fans at 5,000-seat Jenny Craig Pavilion. The Cougars jumped to a 16-point lead in the first half, and then an intentional foul called on Skyler Halford changed the momentum.
San Diego rallied to get within single digits at halftime, 41-33.
USD’s Chris Anderson caught fire in the second half, and the Cougars had a game on their hands.
"I think in the end we just wanted it a little bit more than they did. I think at the start of that second half, they had a little bit more toughness, a little more energy, but at the end of the game we felt good," Austin said.
With 10:42 remaining and USD leading 50-47, Austin was involved in one of the game’s wackier plays — that turned out to be a five-point play for the Cougars.
While Matt Carlino was hitting a 3-pointer, Austin was getting plowed by USD’s Simi Fajemisin. Austin made the two free-throws, and when Tyler Haws got a dunk on a rare fast break, BYU led 54-50.
Austin’s description: "Matt was shooting and I was running in for the rebound and No. 25, Simi, just drills me. He is a big dude, and he drills me. I fall back, and luckily the ref saw that one and gave us the call, and I made the free throws."
Austin was asked whether he flopped.
"No, he drilled me," Austin said. "I was kinda surprised at how hard he hit me. No, there was no flop on that one."
Couple of notes from the game:
* Tyler Haws had 25 points on 11 of 20 shooting, and made a huge 3-pointer with 3:45 left to give BYU a 66-60 lead.
It was Haws’ 100th career game. He passéd Fred Roberts for sixth on BYU’s career scoring list and now has 1,855 points. Up next is Russell Larson (1,885 points).
Haws has scored in double figures in 44 straight games, the fourth-longest streak in BYU history (tied with Larson and Jeff Chatman). It was the 47th 20-point game of Haws’ career, 18th this season.
* Matt Carlino was brilliant off the bench, again. He had 14 points, six assists and four rebounds. Carlino made three 3-pointers, passing Lee Cummard and into sixth place for most 3-pointers in school history. Carlino has made 154 treys.
Carlino also moved into 31st place on the career scoring list, passing Doug Howard, Elwood Romney and Kari Liimo.
* BYU shot 65.4 percent in the first half, its best first half of the season and third-best half overall.
* Former BYU football star Kyle Van Noy attended the game, and sat in the front row directly behind the BYU bench.
* While the Cougars were playing, news came across the wire that former BYU star Jimmer Fredette cleared waivers and signed with the Chicago Bulls.
"If that happens, I know he will be really happy," Rose said. "That’s what he wants. Good for him. Yeah, he’s really excited about that opportunity. I think all Jimmer fans everywhere are happy he is [out of Sacramento]."
Rose said that he and Fredette exchange text messages quite often.
OK, time for some of the better comments from post game interviews with Rose, Haws, Austin and Collinsworth:
Rose on the win overall:
"I think it really was the game we expected. They are really tough. They are really good team defensively. They control the pace of the game. They have a good front line. They can shoot.
Our guys responded to a lot of big runs by them.
We got out to a nice lead.
We did a pretty good job on Johnny Dee most of the night. Didn’t leave him.
So it was a good win for our guys."
Rose on USD’s Chris Anderson going off:
"I think it was a combination of a couple of things. Percentage-wise he hasn’t shot the ball well this year, but he is a good shooter, because we have seen him do it in years past. This year hasn’t been his best from the 3-point line. But without Duda [Sanadze] in there, he became a little bit more aggressive offensively. We continue to go under everything, because that was our game plan, and then we switched it and he just got free a couple times the last couple.
That’s what this San Diego team does. They just figure out ways they can win games."
Rose on not playing Anson Winder in second half as much as the first when he scored all 11 of his points:
"Well, we had gone five or six minutes in the first half without scoring a basket, so we just wanted to kind of change things up a little bit, and see if we could jump-start our offense. I think we brought Eric and Matty in and got a little bit more of a rhythm offensively.
Anson gave us a huge lift defensively all game long, and challenged [Johnny] Dee, and played really well offensively in the first half.
You need a whole bunch of guys to play well to win, especially late in the year."
Rose on Eric Mika’s free throws after timeout in second half:
"Those two were really important. But just confidence-wise, keep it up. They were really pushing us, and guys in those situations can have a tendency to get down on themselves and each other.
The guys have learned a lot. They have learned a lot throughout the year. I don’t know if we could have won this game four or five weeks ago.
Nate Austin on the difference in the game:
"We knew going into the game that it would be a tough game. … It just came down to the end and things went our way, we came up with some 50-50 balls, made some free throws."
Austin on the follow up hoop and 3-point play with 5:53 remaining:
"It fell into my hands and I threw it up, and it went in and I was able to knock down the free-throw as well."
Collinsworth on the 3-point shot to beat shot clock:
"I could see on the other end of the floor that there was about five seconds when Carlino had it, so I knew there were about three seconds.
I am comfortable shooting threes. I just don’t shoot a lot. So I shot my shot, and it went in. It was a big shot for our team."
Collinsworth on how USD kept him under control:
"The gave me two fouls. So I had to sit out the whole first half. Then, coming out of halftime, if you get that third one you have to sit again, to it is hard to be aggressive again. So just foul trouble. I just tried to stay positive, and keep playing and I finally found my rhythm and hit a big shot, so give credit to just staying positive the whole time."
Collinsworth on what was being said in huddles when USD took lead:
"We knew we weren’t playing well. I just tried to get our guys to be positive — like we are OK. Just take a deep breath, calm down and play our game. It wasn’t a pretty win, but a win is a win nevertheless, at the end of the day."
Collinsworth on how his knee is doing:
"It is all right. It has been better. It has improved. It is not fully 100 percent, but it is getting there."
Tyler Haws on how BYU pulled it out:
"I dunno. It was kind of an ugly win. But anytime you can get a W, it feels really good, especially on the road."
Haws on how gratifying it was to win the way they did, having to come back:
"It was awesome. I feel like this team has come a long way. We have been in situations like that before, and it has gone the other way, or we have had trouble figuring it out down the stretch.
But guys made big plays, we got stops, got big rebounds. Just proud of my guys."
Haws on Nate Austin’s big rebounds:
"He was awesome on the offensive end and the defensive end. Had that and-one, had that big putback. I think he had some big rebounds down the stretch, so he was really active and just keeps fighting for 40 minutes."
Haws on USD getting back into it at the start of second half:
"Well, they are a great team. We had a few letdowns, our energy was kind of low. They had a lot of momentum, but just proud of the way our guys competed and stayed in it. Even though they went up, we knew we were going to make our run, and we were able to get the lead."
Haws on whether they are playing best ball of the season:
"I think so. I feel like our chemistry is really good, and we are just figuring out ways to win."
Haws on taking 18 footers:
"That is something I have struggled with for a long time, is stepping on the line. I just try and put the ball in the hoop, where ever I am. I need to step back sometimes, just a couple feet."
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