Provo • It was about time. And it was long overdue.
After losing the last three games to San Francisco, BYU finally broke its three-game skid against the Dons with a 90-76 victory Saturday at Marriott Center.
“I’m really happy for our guys,” coach Mark Pope said. “San Francisco’s a really good team, they’re pretty explosive, and it’s a huge win for us. The Marriott Center was unbelievable. I’m grateful for all the people that came out — they just make this building so special. And it really helps us.”
The Cougars extended their winning streak to four and improved to 19-7 overall on the season and 8-3 in West Coast Conference play.
After going score for score in the opening minutes, BYU used an 18-2 run — helped by four USF turnovers during that period — to start distancing itself from the Dons.
With 4:16 left in the first half, Gavin Baxter checked into the game, making his season debut. Baxter suffered a torn labrum during a team practice before the season started. While it looked like the sophomore forward would elect to redshirt the season, he decided to play as much as he could this season.
Baxter was cleared to play on Tuesday, when he joined in his first team practice since getting injured.
“I think Gavin's going to really help us – I think he's going to help us in a really big way,” Pope said. “He's got to get comfortable. He's only been on the floor for three practices now. So this week is going to be really big for him to kind of get him back, incorporated … he is going to help us win games.”
The Cougars closed out the first half on a 7-0 run, while keeping the Dons scoreless over the last 3:35 minutes to gain their largest lead of the game to that point — 19-points — to go into halftime.
But a double-digit lead at the half doesn’t mean anything, as BYU knows. The last two times the Cougars faced the Dons, they led by as many as 14 points before eventually falling to USF. Two weeks ago, the Dons made their comeback by going on a 21-0 run in the second half.
And while USF tried doing the same this time, BYU was able to adjust and respond.
After the Dons went on a 6-0 run to cut the deficit to 15 midway through the second half, BYU responded with a 9-0 run. Then USF hit consecutive 3-pointers, but before the Dons could get too much momentum, Connor Harding hit his own 3-pointer on the Cougars' next possession.
The Dons continued clawing and fighting as much as they could, mounting another run — this time a 13-2 run to make it a 10-point game with less than four minutes left.
Seeing USF mount a comeback cause a Yoeli Childs to get a pit in his stomach.
“They did it twice in a row and won,” Childs said. “I feel like we grew a lot from those past two (games), but I feel like we want more. We’re obviously happy with the win, but we’re definitely not satisfied. It’s not a hyped locker room right now — we know we need to get to work and get even better to accomplish the goals we have.”
However, the Cougars were able to make the necessary stops to close out the game.
BYU tied a school record with its ninth straight game shooting 50% or better from the field. The Cougars shot 56% from the field and 48% from the arc.
Childs led the offense with 32 points — a point shy of his career best — and six rebounds. TJ Haws and Jake Toolson had nearly-identical lines — both shooting 5 of 8 from the field, scoring 13 points and making seven assists. However, Toolson picked up more rebounds (6) than Haws (3), while Haws made three steals and Toolson added one steal.
• BYU beats San Francisco for the first time in two years, 90-76 at the Marriott Center.
• Yoeli Childs leads the Cougars 32 points — a point shy of tying his record high — and six rebounds.
• Gavin Baxter makes his season debut after recovering from a torn labrum, but records less than 3 minutes.