PROVO — In BYU’s season-opener Friday night, a pair of not-so-new players — Tyler Haws and Josh Sharp — helped lead the Cougars to an 81-66 victory over Tennessee State.
Haws, a sophomore guard who played in his first official game since returning home from an LDS mission last spring, didn't disappoint the crowd of 16,283 at the Marriott Center. Haws scored a game-high 22 points — three shy of his career-high.
"It felt great. It was a fun atmosphere. We had a great crowd," Haws said. "That was a good team over there, very talented, and they fought to the very end. I enjoyed being out there."
"Tyler played great," said BYU coach Dave Rose. "As the game went on in the first half, he got more and more confidence. I think he got a little tired in the second half. It was a really physical game, but he finished the game really well."
And Sharp made key contributions on both ends of the floor for BYU, with career-highs in blocks (2) and points (7).
“I just wanted to contribute in any way I can,” Sharp said. “I worked really hard over the summer and last year trying to get mission legs back. It felt really good."
"He's a great piece for us as far as being able to execute our offensive and defensive system," Rose said of Sharp. "I think he's going to have a great year."
In the second half, Haws saw his school-record free-throw streak end. He entered the season having made 48 in a row at the end of his freshman year in 2009-10. Haws hit his first two Friday to extend the streak to 50. Then, late in the game, he missed his next attempt. But he made his final seven shots from the charity stripe.
"That's kind of disappointing," Haws said of the streak ending, adding that it was time to "start a new streak, I guess."
Leading by just six points early in the second half, the Cougars gradually pulled away and led by as many as 19 with two minutes remaining. BYU shot 61.5 percent in the second half.
In the first half, Tennessee State held senior forward Brandon Davies in check, forcing him away from the basket. Rose challenged Davies at halftime and he responded.
Defensively, BYU held Tennessee State star Robert Covington, an NBA prospect, to 2-of-9 shooting from the floor before fouling out.
"Brock (Zylstra) played amazing defense on him," Sharp said. "We were aggressive on offense, so we were able to get him in foul trouble. That helped a lot. That's what team defense is all about."
Rose was pleased with the play from his bench. In their first games in BYU uniforms, both Agustin Ambrosino and Cory Calvert knocked down their first 3-point attempts.
"The 3 that Cory hit and the one Augie hit were big for us," Rose said. "Those contributions off the bench are always a plus for your team."
Zylstra also nailed a big 3-pointer with 10 minutes remaining in the game that gave BYU a 14-point advantage.
There was a frightening moment with 3:46 left in the game when Tiger guard Jordan Cyphers, who played at Utah a few years ago, fell hard to the floor after a dunk. Cyphers remained on the floor for several minutes while medical personnel attended him. The crowd cheered for Cyphers as he was helped off the floor. He received 12 stitches to his head.
"He fell really hard. I hope he's OK," Haws said. "He's a good kid. He played at Utah. When they pulled up the scouting report, I was like, 'I know this guy. Where have I seen him before?'"
Sharp actually played with Cyphers when he was at Utah before transferring to BYU. Rose liked the way his team competed against Tennessee State.
"It was a really hard-fought game," he said. "This is a really good win for our team, and I think it will prove to be a great win before the season is over. I'm happy with our guys and I thought we did a lot of things really well. A lot of room for improvement."
Friday's game was part of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic that will continue next week. The Cougars will host Georgia State on Tuesday, then travel to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., for a date with Florida State Friday. The winner of that game will meet the winner of Notre Dame-Saint Joseph's Saturday for the championship.
NOTES: Tennessee State grabbed 14 offensive rebounds, compared to BYU's three. Cougar guard Matt Carlino had nine points and 10 assists. Cougar guard Anson Winder, who has been hampered by an ankle injury, did not dress for the game. Duke defeated BYU's next opponent, Georgia State, 74-55, Friday.
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