Provo • Both BYU and Oral Roberts came into Saturday’s matchup at the Marriott Center having won their last four games, and only one team was going to continue its winning streak.
It proved to be the Cougars, who beat the Golden Eagles 79-73 in the final non-conference game of the season.
BYU coach Mark Pope said he was happy with his team for getting the win in a different way.
“It wasn’t pretty and it wasn’t easy and there wasn’t a lot of flow to the game, but guys figured it out,” Pope said. “And we had some guys step it up. Zac Seljaas stepped up and made some unbelievable defensive plays in the last four minutes … and Jake [Toolson] made a couple of huge shots. Between Jake and Yoeli [Childs], you look at their numbers, they just decided they weren’t going to miss any shots tonight.”
The Cougars knew ORU would present a big rebounding challenge — and they were up to the task. Yet, the Golden Eagles still outrebounded BYU, 46-37.
“We gave up 16 offensive rebounds, so that's not great,” Pope said. “We didn't ring the bell as well as we would have liked to there.”
But BYU got the rebounds when necessary.
As Connor Harding went 1 of 3 from the free-throw line to put the Cougars up 71-69 with just over a minute left, Dalton Nixon secured the offensive rebound, which led to a three-pointer by Toolson.
That rebound helped seal BYU's win.
“That’s what Dalton Nixon does,” Childs said. “Him and Zac are huge for us in making those kind of plays. Both of them had huge nights. It doesn’t necessarily show in the box score, but without them we lose that game.”
One of the top 3-point shooting teams, BYU struggled mightily from beyond the arc, shooting 9 of 30. But the Cougars made up for it down low, scoring 30 points in the paint.
“We wanted to have an aggressive mentality,” Toolson said. “Like I said, it helps to have Yo down there to finish around the rim and stuff. One-on-one in the post — we have guys that can score down low and then if not, throw it out and get an open look. That was kind of our mindset.”
Childs entered BYU’s top 10 career scoring list with Saturday’s team-best 23-point performance on 10-of-14 shooting. Childs passed Mark Bigelow (1,715 points) on the all-time list, increasing his career point total to 1,736. The senior is only four points away from Mekeli Wesley, who ranks ninth in BYU history with 1,740 points.
Toolson finished with 22 points, making 7 of 11 field goal attempts.
Although BYU lead the majority of the first half, and by as many as 12 points, the Cougars had to battle throughout.
In the latter part of the first half, the Golden Eagles started stepping it up. ORU built up a modest 7-0 run while the Cougars struggled to connect, going 1 of 12 at the time. BYU ended up going almost 4½ minutes without scoring, forcing Pope to call a timeout.
Childs was able to break the scoring drought immediately after the game resumed, but ORU ended the first half on its terms — with a steal and breakaway layup to cut the Cougars’ lead to 32-30.
At the start of the second half, the Golden Eagles kept chipping away at their deficit and even tied the game twice, but BYU responded with a 9-0 run to retain its lead.
ORU tied it up once more late in the game, but the Cougars were able to close out the win.
After closing out the non-conference portion of the schedule, Pope is confident the team has seen a good variety of teams with different skill sets.
“I feel like a lot of our weaknesses have been exposed, so we’ve had a chance to address them,” Pope said. “That’s what you want, right? So, now we’ve got to regroup ourselves and now it really starts for real.”