Provo • The first half Thursday night against Loyola Marymount was a thing of beauty for the BYU Cougars.
The second half was anything but pretty, as the Lions turned up the defensive pressure and tried to turn the game into a street fight. It worked for awhile, but the Cougars finally recaptured their offensive rhythm and took a 82-67 West Coast Conference win at the Marriott Center.
“Well, a good win for our guys,” said BYU coach Dave Rose. “The first half was really good as far as our execution was concerned. I thought we handled their pressure pretty well. The second half [not as much].”
The Cougars committed two turnovers in the first half, but finished with 15.
“The game got really physical and we turned the ball over six or seven times [more] than in the first half,” Rose said. “The second half, they came out with a totally different mindset defensively.”
Elijah Bryant led all scorers with 29 points, and Yoeli Childs, TJ Haws and Jahshire Hardnett also reached double figures for BYU.
Steven Haney led LMU with 16 points on 5-of-9 3-point shooting.
The Cougars (16-4, 5-2 WCC) remained in a tie with Pacific for third place in the WCC standings with their third straight win. San Diego, which was in third with the Cougars and Tigers, was upset by Portland at Jenny Craig Pavilion and fell to fifth place.
The Cougars host the Toreros on Saturday.
Loyola Marymount fell to 6-12, 1-6 in league play, and lost to BYU for 10th straight time.
But the Lions refused to wilt when it appeared they were going to get blown out of the building.
After leading by 17 at halftime, the Cougars pushed their advantage to 22 points several times in the second half before the Lions disrupted BYU’s rhythm with some backcourt pressure.
They went on a 12-2 run and eventually cut the deficit to nine with just over eight minutes remaining.
However, after Donald Gipson’s 3-pointer trimmed BYU’s lead to 70-61, the Cougars paraded to the free-throw line and regained their big lead.
The Cougars almost shot the ball as well in the first half Thursday night as they did last Saturday at Santa Clara in that 84-50 romp over the Broncos.
They made eight of their first 10 shots, including 4 of 4 from 3-point range, but cooled off a bit as the half wore on. They finished the half shooting 67 percent, after shooting 79 percent in the first 20 minutes against the Broncosfive nights prior.
BYU assisted on its first eight field goals and clicked again offensively with Zac Seljaas making the start over Luke Worthington for the third straight game.
Bryant scored back-to-back field goals midway through the half to give the Cougars a 31-14 lead. McKay Cannon’s free throws gave BYU a 41-19 lead, but the Lions scored on four straight possession in the final four minutes — including back-to-back treys by Haney — to pull within 14 with two minutes left.
However, Bryant hit his fourth 3-pointer of the half, giving him 20 points at the break, and the Cougars took a 46-29 halftime lead. Bryant was 7 of 9 in the first half.
Hardnett took a hard fall with 5:50 remaining in the half and was taken to the locker room for observation. He had five points and four assists before leaving the game, but returned to start the second half and finished with 11 points.
It was the 13th time in their last 14 games that the Cougars have led at halftime. They finished shooting 60 percent, but committed 13 of their 15 turnovers in the second half.