San Diego • There’s something about the Jenny Craig Pavilion — a place BYU has historically struggled playing at. And Saturday was no different.
But luckily for the Cougars, they were able to keep fighting the whole game and held on to beat San Diego 72-71.
Yoeli Childs scored the winning basket on an alley-oop from TJ Haws in the final minute, and the Toreros missed a last-second shot as they faced tight defense.
“We jumped in a huddle right after the game, after we shook hands, and Yoeli Childs was like ‘you told us we’d have to win a game on the defensive end,’” coach Mark Pope said. “We weren’t great defensively. I should have made some adjustments schematically that I didn’t — I was just a little too chicken to make. But the guys ended up winning the game on a defensive possession and that’s pretty awesome.”
The win extends BYU's win streak to six, improving the Cougars to 21-7 and 10-3 in West Coast Conference play.
Since joining the WCC, BYU had previously gone 4-4 at USD, with losses in 2013, 2015, 2017 and 2018.
The Toreros got off to a hot start, going on a 7-0 run right after tipoff. The Cougars looked to get in on the action, and started to chip away at the deficit and eventually took the lead at 11-10 on back-to-back baskets from Yoeli Childs.
However, USD would regain the lead on the next possession. In total, the first half saw 10 lead changes between the WCC foes.
BYU never lead by more than 4, while USD lead by as many as 7 in the first half. But the game proved to be closer than it should have. Once again, the Cougars were faced with shooting trouble in the first half, shooting only 34% from the field and 31% from the 3-point line.
After starting 6 of 24 from the field, BYU made 4 of 5 and outscored the Toreros 11-4 over three minutes to lead 28-24 — forcing USD to call a timeout with four minutes left in the half.
But instead of BYU making a statement in the final minutes, the Toreros outscored the Cougars 9-4 to go into halftime with a 33-32 advantage.
The Cougars came into the second half a bit more energized, but the game continued going back and forth between BYU and USD. But then Childs picked up his fourth foul of the game with 10 minutes left — forcing BYU’s leading scorer to take a seat.
The Cougars took it’s biggest lead of the game — by 5 points – after Haws scored five points on three made free throws and a reverse layup, but it didn’t last long.
The Toreros made it a 1-point game with less than a minute left and then forced a BYU turnover to regain possession with 42 seconds left and scored again for a 71-70 lead.
After Pope called a timeout, Childs scored on an alley-oop from Haws for the eventual game winner.
“We got a good look and it's easy when you have a guy like that going up there and go get it,” Haws said of the game-winning play.
Through the game, the loss of Dalton Nixon could be felt on the court.
Nixon was injured in Thursday's game at Loyola Marymount when the senior was fouled during a breakaway dunk attempt. The senior fell awkwardly on the floor, injuring his right ankle, but immediately got back up.
After the game, Pope said his staff would evaluate Nixon’s injury, but was hopeful the senior would be available for the next game. Come Saturday, though, Nixon was in a boot and on crutches. The diagnosis: a serious double ankle sprain (outside and inside) and he will most likely be sidelined for at least a few weeks.
“Not having Dalt tonight really hurt us and we're going to have to learn a way to be tougher and win more 50/50 balls without him,” Childs said. “The fact that we could come out and get a win is a huge step towards that. We've just got to get tougher. There was adversity. There were challenges here and there. There were things that we didn't agree with, but we fought through it the whole way.”
With Nixon out, Baxter saw more action as he gets assimilated back into the Cougars after coming back from a shoulder injury and surgery.
The sophomore helped the Cougars with three rebounds and two blocks over 13 minutes.
Haws and Childs led the Cougars with 17 points each. Haws recorded his second career double-double with 10 assists.