I wouldn't say it's post dominant because we won't be getting our touches without our guards. We're not as dangerous if we don't have guards that can hit from outside. You've got to give credit to them. —Brandon Davies
PROVO — By now, the West Coast Conference has figured out that slowing BYU's inside game is no easy task.
Santa Clara is the latest team to learn that lesson.
The Cougars' Brandon Davies and Noah Hartsock combined to score 44 points in a 95-78 victory over the Broncos Saturday night before a crowd of 16,116 at the Marriott Center.
Davies scored a game-high 23 points on 9-of-13 shooting — including four dunks — while Hartsock chipped in 21 while hitting 8-of-11 shots.
"We have a lot of confidence in our post guys to score the ball," said coach Dave Rose. "I thought (the Broncos) were physical and did a good job of trying to get us out of comfortable spots. But we were still able to convert and score in the post. Brandon was really good in the first half, and Noah was really good in the second half. That's a good combination to have."
Davies dropped in a career-high 17 first-half points and Hartsock tallied 12 second-half points.
Meanwhile, BYU outrebounded Santa Clara, 40-26, and outscored the Broncos in the paint, 50-30.
"That was part of the game plan," Davies said of the Cougars' inside dominance. "They have great post players. They kind of gave us trouble early on. It was making sure that we dominated the defensive boards. I thought we did a pretty good job of that."
Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating was impressed with BYU's shooting. The Cougars shot 57 percent from the floor for the game, and 60 percent (18-of-30) in the second half.
"Obviously a team like that can shoot it really well from a lot of different spots and has an inside presence, the focus is on not giving them a lot of open shots," Keating said. "I thought we did a good job of that in the first half. Eventually a good team like that is going to wear you down with their bench. … They have guys who can make shots all over the floor."
The Cougars led by just three, 45-42, at halftime before a steady dose of Davies and Hartsock helped them pull away. A Davies dunk with 14:42 remaining in the game gave BYU a 64-50 lead.
Meanwhile, freshman guard Matt Carlino did damage from outside for the Cougars, as he scored 21 points, including three 3-pointers. He also dished out eight assists. Charles Abouo contributed 13 points.
Davies was quick to credit the guards for helping out the inside guys.
"I wouldn't say it's post dominant because we won't be getting our touches without our guards," he said. "We're not as dangerous if we don't have guards that can hit from outside. You've got to give credit to them."
BYU improved to 15-4 overall and 4-1 in the West Coast Conference, and kept pace with Gonzaga, which won at Loyola Marymount on Saturday. The Cougars and Bulldogs are tied for second place in the WCC standings. Santa Clara fell to 8-9 overall and 0-4 in the WCC.
The Broncos stayed in the game thanks to their outside shooting. Santa Clara hit nine 3-pointers as guards Kevin Foster and Raymond Cowels III each drilled four shots from behind the arc. Foster ended up with a team-high 22 points, Cowels had 14 and Niyi Harrison added 18.
"Santa Clara has great scorers and great talent," said Hartsock. "We knew coming in that they were a desperate team because they haven't won a game in conference. So we were expecting a good battle from them."
"Santa Clara has a great guard line," Rose said. "When they're shooting the ball well it causes a lot of problems."
The focus for BYU, defensively, was to contain Foster.
"It was part of the game plan to pressure him," Davies said. "A great player like he is is going to hit tough shots. He hit a lot of deep threes and created well for his teammates. We just took it upon ourselves to shade to him more defensively and make sure that he wasn't the one that was going to beat us."
Santa Clara coach Kerry Keating said it was a tall order for his team playing on the road in a venue like the Marriott Center.
"Our guys weren't fazed by the size. The sound is something that affects you on the road. It's a great place," he said. "I want our guys to thrive in that and relish it. I didn't tell them until after the game what (BYU's) record was in the last 16 years (at the Marriott Center). I didn't want to spook them."
Not long after the conclusion of the game, the Cougars boarded a flight for San Diego. BYU faces San Diego Monday (8 p.m., MST, BYUtv).