Provo • The BYU Cougars spent a lot of time after the game talking about how well their season-opening opponent, Tennessee State, played on Friday night in front of 16,283 at the Marriott Center. Sophomore wing Tyler Haws and coach Dave Rose said the tall, athletic Tigers are going to win a lot of games this year.
Finally, head coach Dave Rose acknowledged that he saw enough out of his team to make him believe the Cougars have a chance to be pretty good as well.
"I thought I saw some really good pieces to [making] a good team for us," Rose said after the Cougars held off the visitors from Nashville 81-66 in what was officially called an opening-round game in the Coaches Vs. Cancer Classic.
In his first official game back from a two-year break for a mission, Haws picked up where he left off as a freshman, leading all scorers with 22 points on 7-for-15 shooting. The only bummer for Haws was that the streak of 48 consecutive free-throw makes he took with him to the Philippines ended when he missed one in the second half. He swished a pair in the first half for a school-record 50 straight.
"That was kind of disappointing, but I don't go up there to try and miss them," Haws said. "I will start a new streak, I guess."
There were plenty of tense moments for the Cougars, 12-point favorites, but the biggest one came when Tennessee State's Jordan Cyphers, who began his college career up the road at Utah, fell hard after a dunk late in the game and stayed down for quite a while.
Twelve stitches, performed by BYU's medical staff, were needed to close a gash in his head. It was particularly tough to watch for BYU's Josh Sharp, who was teammates with Cyphers at Utah.
"He's a good kid. We all hope he's OK," Sharp said.
In a bit of a surprise, Sharp got the start along with Haws, Brandon Davies, Brock Zylstra and Matt Carlino.
Rose said he's not sure yet whether that will be his starting five going forward, but liked the way Sharp played early, including a dunk that followed dunks by Davies and Haws in the game's first four minutes.
Davies overcame a rough first half to finish with 16 points and seven rebounds, outplaying fellow NBA prospect Robert Covington of TSU in front of several pro scouts in attendance. Covington, who averaged 18 points and nine rebounds last season, had just nine points on 2-for-12 shooting before fouling out.
Rose credited Zylstra's defense on the 6-foot-9 Covington, while also praising Carlino's floor game (10 assists and just four turnovers) and Haws' overall play.
"Matt Carlino, I thought was terrific," Rose said.
The Cougars took the lead for good, 28-25, on a 3-pointer by juco transfer Agustin Ambrosino with 4:16 remaining in the first half. Freshman Cory Calvert's first basket as a Cougar was also a trey, and Rose called those two long-range shots "big baskets for us."
However, last year's bugaboo, poor 3-point shooting, made a return visit in the first half as the Cougars went 2 of 9 from beyond the arc. They shot better in the second half, finishing a reasonable 6 for 21.
"I would like to shoot 100 percent from the 3, OK?," Rose said, already weary of answering that question. "But I thought we took good shots. A couple of them were rushed, but in general they were good shots. We made enough tonight, so that was good."
R The Cougars get a decent test in their season-opener, but have too much firepower for visiting Tennessee State
• BYU makes just 6 of 21 three-point attempts, but shoots well overall at 55 percent
• Tyler Haws sees his free-throw streak end at 50, but leads BYU with 22 points.
BYU 81, Tennessee St. 66
TENNESSEE ST. (0-1) • Thornton 9-18 0-0 20, Miller 3-10 4-4 12, Rhett 1-3 3-5 5, Covington 2-12 5-6 9, Cyphers 2-8 2-3 7, Butcher 1-6 0-0 3, Harris 0-0 0-2 0, Fredrick 0-0 0-0 0, McClung 1-2 0-1 2, Wellian 0-2 0-0 0, Green 4-7 0-2 8. Totals • 23-68 14-23 66.
BYU (1-0) • Davies 7-9 2-4 16, Haws 7-15 8-9 22, Carlino 3-6 3-4 9, Sharp 3-5 1-2 7, Zylstra 4-7 1-1 11, Delgado 0-0 0-0 0, Cusick 2-4 1-5 6, Ambrosino 1-2 0-0 3, Calvert 1-3 0-0 3, Austin 2-4 0-0 4, Harward 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 30-55 16-25 81.
Halftime • BYU 34-28.
3-Point Goals • Tennessee St. 6-21 (Miller 2-3, Thornton 2-5, Butcher 1-4, Cyphers 1-4, Wellian 0-1, Covington 0-2, Green 0-2), BYU 5-14 (Zylstra 2-4, Cusick 1-1, Calvert 1-2, Ambrosino 1-2, Haws 0-2, Carlino 0-3). Fouled Out • Covington. Rebounds • Tennessee St. 40 (Rhett, Thornton 8), BYU 40 (Austin, Davies 7). Assists • Tennessee St. 15 (Miller 9), BYU 20 (Carlino 10). Total Fouls • Tennessee St. 24, BYU 19. A • 16,283.