Provo • Given how the first 15 games of the basketball season went for the BYU Cougars, a victory on Saturday night over a slightly above-average West Coast Conference team on the road would have seemed unimaginable, under these circumstances.
Consider that All-WCC pick Brandon Davies scored just six points on 2-for-8 shooting and played just 17 minutes due to recurring foul problems, and that league-leading scorer Tyler Haws missed 11 shots and the front end of two free-throw opportunities in crunch time and also committed a curious turnover late in the game.
That happened Saturday night at intimate War Memorial Gymnasium, but the Cougars' other three starters Matt Carlino, Josh Sharp and Brock Zylstra carried the team to an 80-76 win over hard-luck San Francisco.
The Cougars learned a lot about themselves before an evenly split crowd of 2,132 on a rainy night in the heart of San Francisco, said Haws, who still chipped in 22 points on 9-for-20 shooting despite struggling in areas in which he usually excels.
"This was a great experience for our team, and definitely gives us confidence going into our next games in league," Haws said.
Coach Dave Rose concurred, saying the Cougars grew up a lot after trailing by as many as 12 points in the first half.
"We won a game with a lot of the other guys pitching in, so that's good for our team to grow on," Rose said. "Every win is a great win, but sometimes when you gut it out, you find different ways for the team to shine, and that will really help you down the road. So hopefully this will."
BYU coaches seemed especially pleased with Carlino's performance.
His confidence is obviously soaring after a rough stretch of games to start the season in Brooklyn briefly cost him his starting job. That was evident in San Francisco as the much-maligned sophomore point guard made clutch play after clutch play in the final 10 minutes as the Cougars listed without one of their top two scoring options inside.
Carlino's stat line: season-high 22 points, career-high (tie) seven rebounds, career-high five steals and four assists.
"You gotta give all the credit to Matt," Haws said. "He's coming ready to play, and his confidence is definitely building. We are a lot better team when he is playing like that."
Perhaps sensing that the Cougars were in trouble with their star senior on the bench, Zylstra played one of the best halves of basketball in his career in the first half, going 4-for-4 for 11 points, including 3-for-3 from 3-point range. He finished with a season-high 16 points.
"We were having a hard time scoring in the first half, and Brock stepped up and hit some big shots for us," Rose said.
The Cougars will host Pepperdine on Thursday at the Marriott Center (7 p.m., BYUtv) before traveling back to the Bay Area to face Santa Clara on Saturday. +
Pepperdine at BYU
P Thursday, 7 p.m.
TV • BYUtv