Provo • With about 10 minutes remaining in Thursday night’s West Coast Conference game, BYU’s Yoeli Childs and Elijah Bryant had combined to outscore Pepperdine’s entire team and the Cougars had a comfortable 24-point lead.
Funny, but coach Dave Rose said the key to the easy 83-63 win over the shorthanded Waves was how what has become BYU’s Big Two got some scoring help from their teammates. TJ Haws reached double figures for the first time in five WCC games with 10 points, Zac Seljaas added eight while making his first start since Nov. 21 and the Cougars’ bench contributed 16 points.
“We have been having a really hard time scoring,” Rose said. “We just have had a couple guys scoring [the last four games]. I think the key in the game is we got help from three or four different guys. And I think that is probably the difference tonight.”
It was the first time BYU (14-4, 3-2) has surpassed the 70-point plateau since a 73-52 win over Texas Southern two days before Christmas. Pepperdine (3-14, 0-5) usually gives BYU a tougher game, but injuries have depleted the Waves and they wilted after trailing just 40-34 at halftime.
“I thought it was a good bounce-back win for our guys,” Rose said, having noted how the last two Saturdays the Cougars lost because they couldn’t make the last points of regulation. “They first half they spread us out pretty good and I think we made some nice adjustments at halftime and we were much more aggressive offensively in the second half.
Bryant and Childs were on top of their games from the opening tip to the time they departed with about eight minutes remaining and the Cougars in total control. Bryant went 8 for 12 for 25 points and Childs went 8 for 11 for 21 and also had 12 rebounds and matched his season high with six assists.
With just under 10 minutes remaining, the two were leading Pepperdine 46-45 before Matthew Atewe got a steal and a dunk for the Waves. He finished with 15 and freshman Colbey Ross added 16.
“Every player on our team is great offensively,” Childs said. “We try to take what the defense gives us. Lately, it happens to be me and Eli getting the open looks.”
A lot of those open looks came because Rose replaced defense-minded Luke Worthington in the starting lineup with the smaller, more explosive Seljaas. The strategy worked, as Seljaas produced a brilliant stat line: 3-for-3 shooting, including a 3-pointer, to go with four assists, three rebounds, a steal, a blocked shot and no turnovers.
“We did it to space the floor a little bit,” Rose said. “Some of the reason was to get Zac some more confidence. He is a really good player and we really needed him. His line tonight was tremendous. … That’s a great line for Zac. Hopefully he can get some confidence and build on that, which will be really good for our team.”
Meanwhile, Childs had more room to roam inside, and he delivered a gem of a performance, scoring 14 in the first half after having just one point in the first 20 minutes in Saturday’s 67-66 loss at Pacific.
“Defense, as always [keyed the turnaround],” Childs said. “ I say that every time, but it is just defense. In the first half we had one kill [three straight stops], in the second half we had what, four, maybe five. So our defense leads to our offense, and when we guard, things go well.”
Pepperdine shot 56 percent from the field in the first half, but just 40 percent in the second half.
“I thought we did a good job. Like Yoeli said, it is all about defense,” said Haws, who added three assists. “In the first half I thought we had an OK mentality, but in the second half we came out and our mentality on both ends of the floor was really good. In league, it is all about making adjustments, and I thought we did a good job tonight.”
The Cougars hit the road again Friday and will play at Santa Clara on Saturday night.