Malibu, Calif. • If there's a word to describe how BYU's Tyler Haws has performed this basketball season after returning from an LDS Church mission to the Philippines last April, it would probably be surprising. Or even amazing.
The 6-foot-5 sophomore has easily surpassed all expectations after making the all-Mountain West Conference third team as a freshman in 2009-10 and averaging 11.3 points per game that year.
Haws leads the West Coast Conference in scoring with a 20.5 average and has emerged as the Cougars' most consistent player, if not their best player.
But as BYU prepares to meet Pepperdine on Thursday night at Firestone Fieldhouse (8 p.m. MT), the Cougars find themselves trying to figure out how to get Haws out of a mild shooting slump. It's only a slump by his standards, of course.
Since dumping a career-high 42 points on Virginia Tech in late December, Haws has shot better than 50 percent from the field in only two of eight WCC games. He hit rock bottom last week at Gonzaga when he was held to one point on 0-for-9 shooting, and continued to struggle a bit Saturday against Portland, going 5 for 14.
"I think all the teams [in the WCC] have us scouted out, have our plays scouted out," Haws said Tuesday. "So I think a lot of [the adjustments] will be just coming out aggressive, playing on attack for 40 minutes, and I have confidence that if we run our stuff right, and play at the pace that we want to, that our stuff will work against anyone."
Against Pepperdine at the Marriott Center three weeks ago, Haws put on a vintage performance: 8 for 14 from the field, 7 for 7 from the free-throw line for 24 points. It will be interesting to see how the Waves defend him this time around.
"I have already seen lots of different stuff this year, and so we will be ready for it," Haws said.
After the recent road swing at Gonzaga and Portland, BYU coach Dave Rose suggested that Haws has played so well that "maybe the expectations are a little out of whack."
It is becoming clear, though, that when he doesn't play well, the Cougars have a hard time winning.
Haws is shooting 45 percent in WCC games (54 for 120), a slight drop from the 46.7 percent he is shooting in all games (156 for 334). In conference games only, Gonzaga's Kelly Olynyk leads the league with a 23.3 scoring average, while Haws is third with a 19.8 average.
Assistant coach Terry Nashif, who is in charge of the offense, said that even before Haws scored 42 points against the Hokies, WCC teams such as Gonzaga were gearing up to stop him.
"Tyler is really efficient. He's a great player, and we need to help him," Nashif said. "We will do some things to help him out, get him some shots maybe in different areas at different times. ... They will probably do three or four different things to him throughout the game as a team and individually. So we will have to be ready for that."
Haws was one of the country's best free-throw shooters through December, but has slipped to second in the WCC, at 89.4 percent (110 of 123). San Diego's Johnny Dee leads at 90 percent, but has shot half as many free throws (54 of 60) as Haws.
"I have seen a lot [of defenses]," Haws said. "Teams throw in a box-and-one, or are just playing different defenses on me. So I am used to it by now."
Haws' shooting in conference games
Date Opponent FG FGA Pts
Jan. 3 Loyola Marymount 6 13 20
Jan. 5 San Francisco 9 20 22
Jan. 10 Pepperdine 8 14 24
Jan. 12 Santa Clara 10 14 24
Jan. 16 Saint Mary's 8 16 23
Jan. 19 San Diego 8 20 25
Jan. 24 Gonzaga 0 9 1
Jan. 26 Portland 5 14 19
BYU at Pepperdine
O At Firestone Fieldhouse (Malibu, Calif.)
Tipoff • 8 p.m. MT
TV • ROOT. Radio • 1160 AM, 102.7 FM
Records • BYU 16-6, 6-2 WCC; Pepperdine 10-10, 2-5 WCC
Series history • BYU leads 7-4
Last meeting • BYU 76, Pepperdine 51 (Jan. 10)
About the Waves • Guard Jordan Baker was 7 for 12 from the field and scored 20 points in the game earlier this month in Provo. ... They are led in scoring by 6-2 guard Lorne Jackson, who averages 14.4 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. ... They average just 63.5 points per game.
About the Cougars • They are averaging 77.9 points per game. ... Tyler Haws scored 24 points and Brandon Davies added 19 in their win over the Waves on Jan. 10. ... They have won six straight games against the Waves and are 5-0 under coach Dave Rose. ... Matt Carlino has scored in double figures in eight straight games.