PROVO — Georgia State opened the season last Friday at Duke's Cameron Indoor Stadium, home of the Cameron Crazies.
On Tuesday, the road-weary Panthers not only had to contend with BYU's zany student section — now known as Roar of Cougars or "ROC" — but also an insane scoring barrage by their opponents on the court.
BYU (2-0) started fast, let up in the middle, then finished strong in an 80-62 victory over Georgia State before a crowd of 13,181 at the Marriott Center.
"Probably the best basketball was the first 10 minutes and the last 10 minutes," said Cougar coach Dave Rose.
Brandon Davies finished with 28 points, just one short of his career-high, while Haws poured in 22 points and Matt Carlino chipped in 11. The three players combined to score 61 points on 23-of-34 shooting.
The Cougars scored the first 15 points of the game — Haws opened the contest with back-to-back 3-pointers — and they led 31-2 midway through the first half.
BYU nailed 13 of its first 16 shots from the field, including five 3-pointers.
"I think it surprised all of us that the score was what it was early," said Rose.
The Panthers (0-2), who started the game shooting 3 of 21 from the field, clawed back by hitting shots and forcing turnovers. They whittled the deficit to 11 in the second half. But BYU extended its lead to 24 with two minutes left, 80-56, and closed out the win.
"We were playing great. Shots were falling," Davies said of the opening minutes of the game. "Then we kind of relaxed a little bit. When you get a big lead like that, sometimes you tend to do that."
Yes, the Cougars were glad they had such a big cushion from the outset, because they needed it.
"The start killed us," said Georgia State coach Ron Hunter. "One of the reasons we wanted to play here and we wanted to play at Duke was we wanted to show our young guys what it's about. I thought that BYU was ready to go early. We were shell-shocked and had to settle down. Once we settled down I thought we were pretty good. I thought we were able to play with them."
After BYU seized that 31-2 lead, the Panthers outscored the Cougars, 41-24, over the next 20 minutes. Midway through the second half, BYU found itself clinging to a 56-45 advantage.
But on BYU's next possession, Carlino drained a 3-pointer to bump the lead back to 14, essentially halting the Panthers' momentum. Georgia State couldn't get any closer.
How did the Cougars start so fast?
Haws said that Rose "challenged us to find energy. He thought we were kind of dead in warmups. Every one of our guys came out and we found that energy quick and we were able to knock down shots. It was fun."
Georgia State's pressure caused havoc at times for BYU. The Panthers had 13 steals and the Cougars gave up 16 turnovers.
"We were playing on attack. That was our game plan, to attack their defense," said Haws, who hit 4-of-6 shots from behind the arc. "They like to throw lots of different defenses at you. I thought our guys did that really well at the beginning, then we kind of relaxed. But we were able to get going in the second half again and finish it out."
With a little less than three minutes remaining, Davies slammed hard — knee-first — into the basketball standard. He winced in pain, but stood up and walked it off.
"It was a little scary," Davies said. "But there's a lot of pads, thank goodness, on those baskets. They save some lives. Surprisingly, the hoop is still up."
Asked to compare BYU and Duke, Hunter said, "Two veteran teams. I think BYU shoots the ball better than Duke, to be honest with you. But both places are two tough places to play."
Tuesday's game was part of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic that will continue this weekend.
The Cougars travel Wednesday to Brooklyn, N.Y., where they will face Florida State Friday at the Barclays Center. The winner of that game will meet the winner of the Notre Dame-Saint Joseph's contest Saturday for the championship.
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