Provo • Maybe both teams were still in holiday mode.
Maybe it was just one of those games.
But despite Brigham Young and Loyola Marymount universities combining for only 101 points, the Cougars came away happy.
The Cougars (12-4, 1-0 West Coast Conference) beat the Lions (7-9, 1-1 WCC) 63-38 on Saturday night at the Marriott Center in BYU’s WCC opener.
“I can’t tell you guys how proud I am of our team that those guys, despite the frustration and muddiness and some guys being frustrated with the ball movement and play calling and everything else, that these guys competed on the defense end every single possession,” Cougars coach Mark Pope said. “It’s a beautiful marker for this group of guys this season.”
Senior foward Yoeli Childs led all scorers with 19 points and added 12 rebounds, while senior guard Jake Toolson contributed 13 points, four assists and five steals.
The Cougars held the Lions to their lowest point total of the season. It was only the third time since 2010 that they held an opponent to 38 points or less, per Sports Reference.
Despite an anemic first half offensively in which BYU shot just 3 of 14 from the 3-point line, the team’s defensive effort is what helped it gain some separation before halftime. TJ Haws, Toolson and Childs all made 3s as part of a 13-4 run to close the first 20 minutes.
“We can’t let what’s happening offensively dictate the energy that we have defensively,” Childs said. “In this case, we were able to kind of right through what we were dealing with offensively and just kind of buckle down and get stops. That kind of translated to the other end.”
One example that was indicative of defense leading to offense was when Childs blocked the 3-point attempt of an LMU player and converted a dunk at the other end on the fast break. That sequence gave the Cougars a 15-point lead with less than five minutes left in the game.
BYU missed its first seven 3-point attempts but ended up 8 of 24 from that distance. When the Cougars made their runs to blow open the game, their threes were falling.
“We don’t stop shooting shots just because we start slow or whatever,” Toolson said. “We take open shots, we try to own every shot, and then we’re able to make the next eight out of 17. We’re not going to stop shooting open shots because they’re not falling for a little bit. We’re just going keep taking the good ones and sharing the ball.”
Childs said he took it upon himself to play more aggressively when shots weren’t falling for the Cougars early on. He ended the night missing only five shots from the field. Seven of his eight makes were 2-pointers.
“I think I was just trying to be more assertive in getting my positioning in the paint,” Childs said. “I think the guards did a great job of finding me and the coaches did a good job of really emphasizing getting to the paint, whether it was from a post catch or a drive-and-kick game, being more aggressive. I think our mentality was just to be more aggressive getting to the rim. I think that’s what helped.”
Senior guard Zac Seljaas gave the Cougars their first lead of the game after he stole the ball and took it to the basket himself for a layup and a 9-7 lead with 11:44 left in the first half. BYU never trailed after that.
BYU missed its first four shots from the field. The Cougars’ only points in the first four minutes of the opening half came at the free-throw line.
It was BYU’s sixth straight win, four of which have come by at least 25 points.
Junior Eli Scott led the Lions with 15 points and six rebounds on 6-of-13 shooting in 33 minutes. No other LMU player scored in double figures.