Kansas City, Mo. • History will record it as just one win away from the Marriott Center against a quality opponent, but the BYU Cougars believe it might mean much more than that as the 2013-14 college basketball season winds through December, January and February.
"I mean, those are the kind of games we haven't gotten in the past," said point guard Matt Carlino.
Overcoming the superior size, bulk and athleticism of the Texas Longhorns, the Cougars eked out an 86-82 victory on Monday night to advance to the championship game of the CBE Hall of Fame Classic at the Sprint Center. BYU (5-1) will face No. 12 Wichita State (6-0) and an arena full of Shockers supporters for the title on Tuesday night at 8 p.m. MST on ESPNU or ESPN2.
Just like last Wednesday when they fell 90-88 to another undefeated Big 12 team, Iowa State, the Cougars found themselves in a tight one Monday.
"I thought we executed way better down the stretch in this game, which obviously changed the result," coach Dave Rose said.
He didn't say "finally" after that sentence, but he could have.
"I couldn't be happier for this group of guys, because they came off a tough loss the other night and rebounded [from the loss] well, and got a big win. â¦ Hopefully it gives us a lot of confidence moving forward," Rose said.
Tyler Haws made the play of the game, after scoring just two points in the first half, and finished with a game-high 25 points. He scored BYU's last seven points, and 10 of its last 11.
Freshman Eric Mika, in his first game back after an eye injury kept him off the floor in the final three minutes against ISU, flipped the ball over to Haws, who hit a running, off-balance 18-footer to give the Cougars an 83-80 lead with 43 seconds remaining. The clock expired when the ball was in the air.
"I have just shot that shot, sometimes in H-O-R-S-E, and sometimes after practice for fun, that runner," Haws said. "I was just happy it went in. I was aware of the clock, yeah. I knew I had to get a shot up quickly."
The junior then made 3 of 4 free throws in the final 14.5 seconds to seal it, finishing 9 of 10 from the free-throw line.
So the Cougars pulled it out, despite having Mika, Nate Austin and Kyle Collinsworth in foul trouble most of the game. All three had four each with 7:40 remaining in the game.
The Longhorns had 17 offensive rebounds, out-rebounding BYU by seven, and took a 77-73 lead with five minutes left when Demarcus Holland hit a 3-pointer.
But Haws and the Cougars kept coming, despite having nine shots rejected as a team. His 15-footer with 1:40 left gave them an 81-80 lead they wouldn't relinquish.
"I felt like I got good shots in the first half, they just weren't falling," he said of his 1-for-6 first half. "These games, it is a big challenge to stay in it mentally when your shots aren't falling. We were still in the game, and I was so proud of our guys. We just kept battling, and guys made plays to keep us in the game. And then I was able to make a few shots going down the stretch."
Carlino added 20 points and six assists, Mika added 15 points and seven rebounds, and Collinsworth had 13 points, eight rebounds and five assists in another stat-sheet filler he is known for. Freshman Frank Bartley IV provided a huge lift off the bench, going 3-for-3 from 3-point range and finishing with 11 points and four rebounds.
The Cougars made their first six 3-point attempts, and were 10 of 12 from beyond the arc after going 5 for 35 from there in their last two games, both at home.
"I think the guys felt a real urgency to leave everything they had on the floor, and try to get this win," Rose said.
Storylines BYU 86, Texas 82
R BYU's Tyler Haws scores 23 of his game-high 25 points in the second half.
• Freshman Eric Mika returns from an eye injury and tallies 15 points and seven rebounds.
• Haws' 18-footer gives BYU a 3-point lead with 43 seconds left.