SALT LAKE CITY — The nation's leading scorer graced the floor at EnergySolutions Arena on Saturday afternoon.
But it was BYU's Tyler Haws — not Virginia Tech's Erick Green — that lit up the scoreboard.
Haws enjoyed a special day at ESA, pouring in a career-high 42 points, including 29 in the first half, as the Cougars crushed the Hokies, 97-71, before a crowd of 15,684.
"I was able to get into a rhythm early," said Haws, who set the tone with a pair of 3-pointers to start the game. "They were doubling (forward Brandon Davies) and so I got a few open shots, which is pretty unusual. I found my rhythm and just knocked down shots tonight."
To be exact, Haws hit 14-of-25 shots from the floor, including 6-of-8 3-pointers and 8-of-9 free throws.
"He was special. He was special. He’s a really good player, I mean, he’s a really good player," said Virginia Tech coach James Johnson. "He can score in a lot of different ways. He’s crafty. He’s smart. He’s probably one of the best guards we’ll play against all year long. He had a really good day and he came out right from the start."
Haws became the ninth player in BYU history to score at least 40 points in a game. He tied a school record for eighth-most points in a single game. Jimmer Fredette holds the all-time BYU record with 52. Haws came out of the game in the closing minutes to a rousing standing ovation.
As if those things weren't enough, the sophomore guard eclipsed his father's single-game career high — Marty Haws scored 40 for the Cougars against Siena in 1989.
That's something that will be discussed around the Haws' dinner table.
"For sure," Tyler said. "That's a cool thing."
BYU coach Dave Rose was thrilled to see Haws, who returned home from a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in April, turn in a memorable performance.
"We needed a guy to kind of lead us out. Ty did a great job hitting shots," Rose said. "We got some good looks and it was important to hit those. Tonight kind of showed him, showed our team, and showed our staff what the future could hold for him, because he's a really talented guy."
And what does the future hold for Haws?
"He'll be a guy that we can go to for points — early in the game, late in the game," Rose said. "He's a good free-throw shooter. Our challenge will be to keep him fresh, the best we can."
BYU forward Josh Sharp, who scored 10 points, said his team was ready for the Hokies.
"We knew this was a good team and we had to be prepared for them," said Sharp, who scored 10 points. "We needed a big win against a big team. We were really focused."
And what did Sharp think of Haws' heroics?
"Tyler never ceases to amaze me. He can do anything," he said. "We knew he was on and we definitely were trying to feed him and giving him the ball."
Haws outdueled Green, who entered the game averaging a nation-best 25.4 points per game. He finished with 12 points on 4-of-17 shooting. He missed all five of his 3-point attempts.
"He's a terrific scorer," Rose said of Green. "I thought our guys did a pretty good job of getting him into spots that are tough for him to score. I thought we closed quickly on his penetration and contested him really well."
The Cougars seized a big lead early. They went up 14-2, and extended that to 33-17 at the 10-minute mark of the first half. At one point in the first half, Haws had outscored Virginia Tech, 26-23, by himself.
At intermission, BYU led Virginia Tech, 56-31. Haws had 29 points on 9-of-13 shooting from the field, and 6 of 8 from the 3-point line.
Meanwhile, Green had seven points at the half on 2-of-9 shooting. The Cougars outshot the Hokies, 60 percent to 30 percent, in the first 20 minutes.
"The key for us, we've gotten off to some good starts this year and we've kind of faded a little bit," Rose said. "We were pretty consistent the whole game. Our intensity level was good. Except for some missed rebound assignments, the first half was probably as well as we've played."
Virginia Tech played better in the second half, although BYU's lead ballooned to as many as 32 at the 15:21 mark. The Hokies battled back to within 18 with 7:33 remaining.
Over the final 20 minutes, Virginia Tech limited Haws to 13 points.
"We tried to go no-look, no-touch on him and try to get away from our help principles a little bit and try and not let him touch the ball as much," Johnson said about defending Haws in the second half. That’s kind of uncharacteristic of what we do but we tried to slow him down a little bit. It kept him from getting 60 tonight."
And Haws adjusted to Virginia Tech's defensive adjustments.
"You've got to stay aggressive and take what the defense gives you," he said. "I was trying to get other guys involved. (Davies) had a strong start to his second half. All of our guys played well, and this is a good team win."
It was an important victory for BYU in its final nonconference game before entering into West Coast Conference play next Thursday at home against Loyola Marymount.
"This is a great win for our team going into league play," Haws said.
Just how difficult is it to score 40 points?
"It's tough, but some nights you're just feeling it," Haws said. "It feels like that rim's really big. Those nights are fun."