Montana may have lost badly to BYU, but the Grizzlies did what Notre Dame, Florida State and other opponents could not do this season: They held Cougar guard Tyler Haws to fewer than 20 points.
Well, barely. And they needed help from a gracious BYU coach Dave Rose, who substituted for Haws with 5:35 remaining in the Cougars' 85-60 victory Wednesday night at EnergySolutions Arena.
Haws finished with 18 points in his bid to become to join Devin Durrant as the only BYU players to score 20-plus points in each of the first seven games of a season.
Already, Haws had topped BYU legends Danny Ainge, Kresimir Cosic and Michael Smith, who scored 20 in five games. And there's one name noticeable in its absence from this discussion, or have you forgotten about Jimmer Fredette?
Unlike those other players, Haws' strong start is coming in his sophomore season. His achievement also featured a higher degree of difficulty, considering he returned only in April from a two-year LDS mission to the Philippines.
Seriously, is it supposed to be this easy?
"He didn't have much rust," said teammate Craig Cusick, describing Haws' return to high-level play as "abnormally fast."
Haws did play some basketball during weekly preparation days, but the opponents were Filipino church members who were "about this tall," the 6-foot-5 guard said, holding his hand at armpit level.
The Grizzlies matched up considerably better with him, but he made 6 of 12 shots from the field by relying mostly on turnaround shots and post-up moves. Haws almost topped the 20-point mark to match Durrant's seven-game start as a senior in 1983-84, but he missed a 3-pointer from the left corner and then shot wildly on a drive, shortly before being taken out with BYU (5-2) holding a 19-point lead.
He's still averaging 22.5 points and shooting 50 percent, signs of a remarkable re-entry process.
"I've seen some missionaries come back and be successful," Haws said, "and I wanted to be one of those guys."
His father was not one of those guys not immediately, anyway. Marty Haws, whose own BYU basketball career included a mission in the mid-1980s, outlined an approach for his son that pretty much was "how he'd do it if he did it again," Rose said.
The strategy involved some self-discipline. As much as Tyler Haws wanted to play basketball right away, the former Lone Peak star avoided the court for a couple of months after returning home, favoring his father's conditioning regimen.
"I didn't want to do too much too soon," he said. "I worked hard in the summer to get my legs back, and my body's feeling good right now."
Haws averaged 11.3 points in 2009-10 as a freshman for the Jimmer-led, 30-6 team that beat Florida in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Upon his return, Haws' increased scoring is partly out of necessity. Not only is Fredette gone from his original BYU team, but so are two of last season's leaders, Noah Hartsock and Charles Abouo.
The Cougars still have Brandon Davies, who posted 21 points Wednesday, and other players are capable of chipping in. But they'll need Haws' consistent scoring to contend in the West Coast Conference.
He's delivering beyond anyone's expectations other than his own, to this point.
"You spend a lot of time on that mission thinking about what's going to happen when you get home," Rose said, "and he had a plan, and he was really determined how it was going to work out."
Montana and other opponents would have to say he's succeeding.