Provo • Move over, 1980 Holiday Bowl.
BYU sports fans have another miraculous comeback to crow about.
OK, it might be a stretch to suggest that Saturday’s dramatic 75-73 overtime basketball win over San Francisco rivals the furious fourth quarter rally and Hail Mary pass that beat SMU 46-45 to give BYU its first bowl win.
But the Marriott Miracle, as some are calling it, was incredibly memorable, nevertheless. And almost as improbable.
It took a perfect storm of events, a couple of favorable calls from the officials, the Dons cooperating with some missed free throws and untimely turnovers, and some clutch playmaking for the Cougars to pull it off.
“It showed a lot about who this team is,” said TJ Haws, who scored eight of BYU’s 10 points in overtime, including the game-winning free throws with 4.3 seconds remaining.
The five-minute overtime session also featured a BYU comeback, as the Cougars quickly fell behind by four and had the lead for only the last four seconds. But this one will be remembered for what took place the final minute of regulation.
“We were having a hard time [for more than 39 minutes],” coach Dave Rose said. “It was like we were playing in mud for a while.”
Souley Boum made two free throws, completing a four-point possession for the Dons, with just over three minutes remaining to give USF a 61-54 lead, and neither team scored on its next three possessions.
Zac Seljaas came up with a huge offensive rebound with less than 45 seconds left after McKay Cannon missed a 3-pointer and found Haws for a desperation 3 that cut the deficit to four.
Boum hit two free throws with 39 seconds left to push the advantage to six, and after Haws missed a jumper and Yoeli Childs’ tip attempt was off, USF’s Jimbo Lull — an 83 percent free-throw shooter — went to the line with 31 seconds remaining.
According to KenPom.com, San Francisco’s win probability at that juncture was 99.2 percent.
Both of Lull’s free throws clanged off the back iron. Haws missed a 3-pointer with 22 seconds left, but the 6-foot Cannon got a hand on the carom and tipped it to Childs for a basket.
Then came two critical judgement calls that went BYU’s way. Elijah Bryant ripped the ball away from Jordan Ratinho, who was trapped in the corner. Had it been called a held ball, the possession arrow favored USF.
BYU’s Jahshire Hardnett collided with USF’s Chase Foster, who was standing just outside the restricted area arc, as he was driving to the hoop. Foster got the foul. Hardnett completed the 3-point play with a free throw that found a lot of the rim before dropping to cut the deficit to one.
The Cougars were hoping that Boum would go in for the layup if he got behind their defense, and the freshman did just that with 11.2 seconds remaining.
After a timeout in which assistant coach Heath Schroyer drew up a play designed to free Bryant for a 3-pointer, the Cougars executed perfectly. Childs might have gotten away with a moving screen on Bryant’s defender, but his triple, his only 3-pointer of the second half, ripped through the nets.
The Cougars are hoping the stirring comeback propels them to greater heights.
“There was an absolute feeling in that locker room that we haven’t had for awhile, where the guys were genuinely just really happy,” Rose said. “That’s how I want it. I want to play with that feeling the rest of the way through this, and on to the postseason.”
Said Haws, who finished with a season-high 26 points: “That’s a big part of growing as a team. This can help us down the road when we are in situations like that again.”
So the Cougars (9-5, 20-7), who have posted 13 straight seasons of 20 or more wins, find themselves alone in third place in the West Coast Conference with four games remaining and trying to hold off 8-6 Pacific and 7-7 San Diego for the important spot below league leaders Saint Mary’s and Gonzaga, both 13-1 in league play.
Their next three games are on the road, beginning Thursday night at Pepperdine (8 p.m., BYUtv), where they have lost four-straight games.
“We know we have to win the conference tournament to have a shot at the [NCAA Tournament],” Haws said. “And I think games like this can really be a turning point for our team. I thought we just fought hard to the very end. I think that taught each of us on the team about what we can do and what we can accomplish.”
BYU at Pepperdine, 8 p.m. MST