Provo • A couple of the real heavyweight names in college basketball were on the docket for Brigham Young at the Maui Invitational earlier in the week as BYU beat UCLA, lost to Kansas and then finished the road trip with a win over Virginia Tech — which had just knocked off traditional power Michigan State.
So the name of Montana Tech probably didn't exactly register in the same vein, but that's who was next for the Cougars on Saturday.
And BYU didn’t miss a beat, cruising past the undersized Orediggers 98-63 at the Marriott Center.
"Montana Tech is not a bad team. They beat Montana at Montana this year, right, which is really remarkable," Cougars coach Mark Pope said. "It's not easy to go there and win.
“They’ve already knocked off a Division 1 team, they have the capability of scoring, so we knew it would be a game.”
It wasn’t for too long, however.
Brigham Young (6-3) never trailed in the contest and grabbed its first double-digit advantage eight minutes into the game. Montana Tech (4-3), an NAIA school that classified the contest as an exhibition on its schedule, kept the margin at 10, at 31-21, before BYU went on a 14-3 run late in the first half.
Jake Toolson scored 17 points while TJ Haws (15), Zac Seljaas (14) and Kolby Lee (11) also got into double figures for the Cougars. The visiting Orediggers were paced by Taylor England’s 16 points.
"We hadn't been in our gym in so long, it was just fun to be back in our gym," Pope said. "You're always concerned about coming back from a long trip. We were gone for a week almost and played three games, it felt like we were in a different world for a little while."
The spread increased to 21 before Montana Tech trimmed the deficit to 15 five minutes into the second half. That’s when Seljaas popped a trey from the top of the key and Toolson followed that with another 3-pointer. That was the start of a 15-4 run that put the game away.
"I think this team has grown a lot since the beginning of this season and we've learned a ton," Haws said. "Every game we're learning and trusting each other a little more."
The game was BYU’s first at the Marriott Center since a win over Southern Utah on Nov. 13.
"Just to get back to some normal and some regular routine has been really good for us," Pope said.
The first-year BYU coach had another reason to celebrate this particular game.
"Finally, it was a remarkable day because it's game nine and we've had game nine circled on our calendar for a long time," Pope said.
This was the last contest of the 2019-20 season that the Cougars would have to miss the services of senior Yoeli Childs because of an NCAA-mandated nine-game suspension. Childs, a 6-foot-8 forward who averaged 21.2 points and 9.7 rebounds a year ago, is expected to don the Cougars uniform for the first time this season against Utah on Wednesday.
"I think Yoeli has a clear vision of the player he wants to be. He's really smart, really observant and he's really paid attention as this group has grown and tried to learn together on the court. Yoeli's just had to learn that way off the court," Pope said. "But he's taken everything in."
As for playing the Utes at the Huntsman Center, the new BYU coach said his team is ready.
“There’s nothing like the feeling of going into a hostile environment and it’s your 15 guys against the whole world,” he said.