BYU basketball: Cougars build confidence with Bay Area sweep
George Nikitin, AP
PROVO — BYU is hoping its road woes are in the rearview mirror.
The Cougars are coming off a pair of victories away from home last weekend, having beaten San Francisco and Santa Clara. BYU defeated the Broncos 91-81 at the Leavey Center Saturday night.
The Cougars entered last week mired in a four-game road losing streak. Now, they have won two straight on the road.
Overall, BYU has won five consecutive games — a streak that began with three wins in a row in Provo in early January.
“We kind of held serve at home and won three home games,” coach Dave Rose said after the Santa Clara victory. “But coming out here (to the Bay Area) and winning two on the road gives our guys some real confidence. These games are all going to be really important with the way the league is playing out. It puts us in position now that if we can win, we’ll be in good shape. That’s what we’ll try to do.”
This week, the Cougars go back on the road when they visit Portland Thursday (8 p.m. MST, Root) and league-leading Gonzaga Saturday (8 p.m. MST, ESPNU).
Just a few weeks ago, BYU dropped a pair of road games at Loyola Marymount and Pepperdine before going on its five-game winning streak.
“Anytime you can win five in a row, you’re feeling pretty good,” said guard Tyler Haws. “We’ve just got to continue to get better and not forget that one road trip (to the L.A. area). We don’t want to feel like that again. Our team’s really coming together, and we feel like we’re playing well.”
“We were in a tough stretch,” guard Anson Winder recalled of the 0-2 start in the West Coast Conference. “We were losing away from home. I think we got that monkey off our back and we showed we can go on the road and win.”
How have the Cougars managed to bounce back?
“It’s definitely staying positive,” Winder said. “You look around the whole country and teams that are really good are going on losing streaks like we went on. The main thing is staying positive and battling through it.”
During this recent stretch, BYU (13-7, 5-2) has leaped into second-place in the WCC standings, behind Gonzaga (16-3, 6-1) and just ahead of Saint Mary’s (14-5, 4-2), San Francisco (12-8, 5-3), and Pepperdine (12-8, 5-3).
Saturday at Santa Clara, Winder scored 16 points in the first half after Haws picked up two personal fouls in the first minute of the game.
The Cougars weren’t surprised how Winder played.
“There are days in practice where Anson really gets it going and really shoots the ball well,” Haws said. “I know it was in him. He stepped up tonight and was ready for that challenge. He was big-time in that first half.”
Winder played so well that Rose had the luxury of keeping Haws on the bench until halftime. Haws still finished with 16 points. Four other Cougars scored in double figures — Kyle Collinsworth (18), Matt Carlino (15), Eric Mika (10) and Skyler Halford (10). As a team, BYU shot 61 percent.
The Cougars seized a 47-30 halftime lead after leading by as many as 24. Santa Clara whittled the deficit to 10 a few times in the second half but could get no closer.
As far as Winder is concerned, the final score isn’t important.
“Whether it’s 10 (points) or one or two, I mean, we’ll take the ‘W’ as it is,” he said. “I know we were up by a lot and we kind of let them back in towards the end. But we’ll take the ‘W.’ We need it, with the spot we’re in in conference.”
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