Provo • BYU finally played its first full week of West Coast Conference play, and it felt like that one week was filled with all the highs and lows of a full season.
It started with leading-scorer Yoeli Childs getting injured last Tuesday. The senior forward suffered an open dislocation of his right index finger, taking him off the court for at least a week or two.
His absence was felt in the Cougars’ first conference road game at Saint Mary’s, in which BYU battled throughout — even taking the Gaels to overtime — but was unable to get the win. Then, the team traveled back to Provo for a home game two days later, and was able to recover from its heartbreaking loss to beat Portland and improve to 2-1 in the WCC (13-5 overall).
“You have this one day off and if we had won the Saint Mary’s game or lost the Saint Mary’s game, either way with the way that game went, our biggest job was to help our guys rehabilitate their hearts and souls to be ready to come and compete,” coach Mark Pope said.
The player who seemed to propel the Cougars forward the most with Childs out was senior TJ Haws.
The senior scored the game-tying dunk at Saint Mary’s to go into overtime and finished with a team-high 29 points in the eventual loss. Then on Saturday, Haws posted a double-double with 13 points and a career-high 14 assists, while also contributing three rebounds, two steals and a block against Portland.
He played a complete game to help his teammates succeed.
Zac Seljaas said Haws was part of the reason he was able to score a team-high 21 points on Saturday.
“Most of all, it was because of TJ and Jake and the way that they were passing the ball and getting everyone open shots,” Seljaas said. “And the way the our team was kind of moving the ball and playing offensively.”
Because Haws is such an advanced player, Pope said he's even more critical of him.
Pope thought Haws’ performance against the Gaels was courageous and tough. He saw his senior guard flip a switch 10 minutes in and embrace the physicality of the game.
The first-year coach was also proud of the way Haws was able to recognize the mistakes made in Moraga and actively work to correct them for the home game against Portland.
“And then [Saturday], for him to respond and the way we did, recognizing some of the ways we fell short to Saint Mary’s, and him addressing those issues is pretty spectacular,” Pope said. “… This young man, he’s a really special player and he’s obviously trying to put the finishing touches in a spectacular way on a really special BYU career.”
With Childs still out — and Connor Harding battling a knee injury that’s kept his minutes limited — the Cougars will have to continue to play complete games to not let the competitiveness of the WCC get away from them.
And once again, BYU will have a split week. Fortunately for the Cougars, they’ll get to host one game before having to travel for another. The Cougars face San Diego (7-12 overall; 0-4 WCC) on Thursday and No. 1 Gonzaga (18-1, 4-0) on Saturday.
Gonzaga is the only remaining undefeated team in the WCC.
“Yoeli is a big emphasis to our team and he has a great presence,” Seljaas said. “There’s a lot more rotation with me and Dalton [Nixon] and Kolby [Lee] at the big spot, so we just have to be able to make that position open and to be able to contribute and do all those things. It just works — our team comes together really well with that.”
BYU VS. SAN DIEGO
At the Marriott Center
When • Thursday, 7 p.m.
TV • BYUtv