Balanced offense powers BYU to victory against Santa Clara

Provo • BYU found a familiar remedy for its two-game losing skid on Thursday night — a home game against the Santa Clara Broncos.

The Broncos remained one of only two teams in the West Coast Conference that has never defeated the Cougars at the Marriott Center in a league game, falling 80-58 in front of an announced crowd of 11,638 in a late-night contest.

“I thought that there was a really good feel with our team tonight,” BYU coach Dave Rose said, expressing relief that the Cougars didn’t take the Broncos for granted after pounding them 84-50 in California last month. “I am happy for our team when we have that feel like we had tonight — guys sharing the ball really well and connecting well on defense.”

BYU improved to 19-7 overall and 8-5 in WCC play, and is alone in third place after Pacific lost at home to Gonzaga earlier Thursday. The Cougars will go for their 13th-straight 20-win season when they host San Francisco on Saturday at 2 p.m.

Santa Clara (8-17, 5-8) is 0-7 at the Marriott Center in WCC games. Portland is the other WCC team that has never won in Provo.

BYU got balanced scoring in bouncing back from last week’s losses at Loyola Marymount and Gonzaga, as Yoeli Childs, Elijah Bryant, TJ Haws and Dalton Nixon all reached double figures. Childs had 20 points and 10 rebounds for his 12th double-double, and Bryant added 14 points and eight rebounds.

We got a lot of good action out of playing out of an advantage from the ball screen,” Rose said. “I think as our guys get deeper and deeper in the year, I think our understanding grows of what is available to us. It was that second and third pass tonight that I was really impressed with.”

The Cougars assisted on 22 of their 34 baskets.

Nixon played his best game since returning from a foot injury, scoring 12 points on 5-for-6 shooting and grabbing five rebounds in 15 minutes.

“I think Dalt really gave us good minutes off the bench,” Rose said.

KJ Feagin and Wasatch Academy product Josip Vrankic scored 11 points apiece for the Broncos, who had their moments in both halves before fading late. BYU guard Jahshire Hardnett again held Feagin below his season average, causing the Broncos’ leading scorer to go 5 of 15 from the field.

Hardnett said he takes it personally when players score when he’s guarding them.

“I got the mindset where I just don’t want another player to out-shine me,” he said.

Rose was even more impressed than that.

“This KJ Feagin is a really good guard,” Rose said. “I am impressed with Jahshire and how he handles this guy. I think he has guarded him really well both games. I think that is such a huge part of our ability to kinda defend and get stops, is to be able to keep that point guard under control, especially in transition.”

This one wasn’t as easy as it appears. Leading by 10 at halftime, the Cougars sleepwalked through the first seven minutes of the second half, and Santa Clara crept back into the game. Vrankic scored nine points in that stretch and his 3-pointer with just more than 13 minutes remaining trimmed BYU’s lead to 50-45.

Nixon and Bryant made 3-pointers to right the Cougars, however, and the home team’s advantage quickly ballooned to double digits. A dunk by Childs and Haws’ steal and fastbreak dunk made it 60-45 halfway through the second half.

“It felt really good [to have the bench contribute],” Nixon said. “It felt really good for me personally to get back in a rhythm, coming back from my injury. Guys like Payton [Dastrup] stepped up, Zac [Seljaas] and just all the guys on the team. The bench just really gave it their all today.”

The Cougars led by as many as 23 before taking its second-straight win over the Broncos, having downed Santa Clara 84-50 last month. Unlike the meeting four weeks ago when they led by 18 at the half, the Cougars struggled early to stop Santa Clara’s 3-point shooting and led 41-31 at the break.

The bench finished with 24, with Seljaas and Dastrup adding five points apiece.

“That is kind of expected from young guys at home,” Rose said. “What we need to do is to get that same help when we leave the Marriott Center. As we continue to play and get confidence, that should come.”

Santa Clara hit five of its first 10 3-point attempts in the first half, but cooled off and finished 5 of 15 from beyond the arc in the first half, 8 of 26 in the game. Henry Caruso led the visitors with eight first-half points but did not score in the second half.

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