PROVO — The BYU Cougars struggled early, but finished strong in securing a 93-78 win over Buffalo on Tuesday night.
Both Brock Zylstra and Anson Winder played big roles in helping BYU get through its initial struggles, and then find its stride in cruising to the double-digit win.
With just 3:40 gone in the game, the Cougars found themselves down 14-3 with Buffalo on pace to score 150-plus points. At that point, a clearly irritated BYU coach Dave Rose called the team's first timeout.
"He was pretty angry," related Anson Winder. "He knew that the way we came out against Baylor was completely the opposite of how we came out today, so he just wanted us to get back to the way we play — to play harder and to play together, and we responded."
A key to the team's response was Winder himself, who replaced Charles Abouo at the 2-guard spot following that first timeout. Due to freshman DaMarcus Harrison being sidelined with a bum ankle, which followed up Stephen Rogers being forced to miss about a month with a knee injury, Winder found himself in the sixth-man role.
With Winder in as the first guy off the bench, the Cougars chipped away at the Bulls' lead, finally drawing even at 22-22 at the 12:48 mark. They went on to lead at the half 47-39.
Winder finished the half connecting on all six of his shot attempts, which included five 3-pointers. Prior to Tuesday's game, he had been struggling with his shot to the point that opposing teams would sag off of him defensively, daring him to take what was then believed to be an ill-advised 3-point attempt.
After Tuesday night's game, teams might rethink that defensive philosophy.
"I've been in a pretty bad slump the last few games, so I just got to the gym and worked on my shot and it worked out," he said after finishing the game with 20 points and 6-of-7 shooting from the arc.
Winder has played in a variety of roles for the Cougars so far this season, starting out at the 2-guard position, then switching to the point before being switched back. His willingness to fulfill his variety of roles earned him praise from Rose following the game.
"He did exactly what we needed him to do," said Rose. "I think that's part of being a good teammate. When you look at this team and think who would be the most valuable guy to this point, Anson would be one of those guys who would be right at the top because of what he's done in putting himself second and putting the team first."
The Cougars were led on the night by Zylstra, who had 26 points and went 4-of-10 from 3-point range. Matt Carlino, in his first start, finished with mixed results, scoring 10 points and dishing out 11 assists, but also accounting for five turnovers in 22 minutes of play.
Buffalo was led by Mitchell Watt, who finished with 18 points and eight rebounds.
With the win, the Cougars move to 9-3 on the season and will take on Santa Barbara on Thursday at the Marriott Center.