Moraga, Calif. • It might not be time to bury this BYU basketball team just yet.
Just when it looked like coach Dave Rose’s squad was going to turn in another uninspired effort on the road in the West Coast Conference, the Cougars rose up and pulled off a huge come-from-behind win.
Facing a raucous crowd packed into every nook and cranny of the intimate venue, a crowd inspired by the jersey retirement of renowned BYU-killer Matthew Dellavedova, the Cougars somehow rallied from a 12-point deficit in the second half to stun Saint Mary’s 60-57 and reclaim second place in the WCC.
"Gosh, it feels so good to beat those guys," said BYU’s Tyler Haws, who led all scorers with 18 points. "It is always just a grind-it-out battle, and I was really proud of our guys and our coaches. We never doubted."
BYU, left for dead by some after Thursday’s 89-82 loss at Pacific, improved to 10-5 in league play, 18-10 overall, while SMC dropped to 9-5 and 19-8.
A season sweep over SMC and San Francisco puts the Cougars in decent position to get the No. 2 seed in the WCC Tournament, but they face league-leading Gonzaga on Thursday at the Marriott Center.
"Well, I think that there was a lot of fight in our guys," Rose said after BYU won for the first time at 3,500-seat McKeon Pavilion in three tries as a WCC member. "After the game the other night, there was some real resolve that we were going to go out there with a gutsy effort, and put everything out there. … The guys reached down and found a way."
The Cougars won despite going 11 of 19 from the free-throw line. Matt Carlino and Skyler Halford both drained a pair with 5.1 seconds (Carlino) and 3.2 seconds remaining (Halford), the only points of the game for Halford and redemption for Carlino after he missed three straight before that.
"It was crazy," Haws said. "I mean, every game we play against these guys, whether it is here or at the Marriott Center, it is always just a crazy environment. College basketball doesn’t get much better than [the environment] we just played in."
Along with grabbing 11 rebounds, Nate Austin made the play of the game for BYU, batting in a ball at the rim after Matt Carlino missed a 3-pointer with under three minutes remaining and the game tied at 53-53. Austin said he was just trying to keep the ball alive and position himself to get two hands on it, but it bounced high off the glass and fell through.
"It never really felt like we were out of the game," Austin said. "We just battled and battled."
The tip-in was BYU’s last field goal.
Brad Waldow (17 points) tied it at 55-55 with a putback with 1:26 remaining, but that turned out to be SMC’s last basket.
Austin made one of two free throws with 1:00 left to give the Cougars a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. SMC’s Kerry Carter lost the ball twice in the final minute, including one time when he dribbled the ball off a referee’s foot, and into Austin’s hands.
"It was a good play by the ref," Austin joked.
Up by three after the Carlino and Halford free throws, the Cougars purposely fouled to avoid getting Dellavedagger-ed, remembering the running 3-pointer "Delly" made last year to beat them in Provo.
"I think inside of five seconds, that is probably what we would like to do," Rose said.
Kyle Collinsworth took a hard fall after a midair collision with Stephen Holt (13 points) and left for the locker room favoring his right knee with 6:31 left in the first half. He returned before halftime and played most of the second half, finishing with 14 points before fouling out. Luke Worthington left the game with a shoulder injury and did not return.
Rose was unsure of their status moving forward and said both players will be evaluated Monday.
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