SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Conference basketball games are often compared to boxing matches, and that certainly was a fitting analogy Saturday afternoon at Leavey Center.
In what was a physical contest, BYU and Santa Clara traded punches, in a figurative sense, before the Cougars delivered the equivalent of a knockout blow with a decisive 18-0 run midway through the second half.
In the end, BYU routed the Broncos, 82-64, before a crowd of 2,853.
"It's a huge win for our group. We'd punch them and they'd punch us right back," said Cougar guard Tyler Haws, who drilled 10-of-14 shots from the field and poured in a game-high 24 points. "It was that way the whole game. We were finally able to extend the lead and finish it off. I'm just really proud of our guys."
With the win, BYU improved to 14-4 overall and 4-0 in West Coast Conference play. Santa Clara dropped to 12-6 and 1-3.
Including Haws, five Cougars scored in double figures. Brock Zylstra hit 6-of-8 shots, including 3 of 4 from 3-point territory, and as a team, BYU shot 53.6 percent from the field.
Brandon Davies (13 points, eight rebounds), Matt Carlino (13 points, five rebounds, eight assists) and Anson Winder (10 points, four rebounds) all contributed to the victory.
"It was a team effort," said coach Dave Rose. "I was really impressed with how hard our guys played for a consistent 40 minutes. Defensively, it might have been our best effort all year as far as executing the game plan, guys just playing hard, competing every possession. (The Broncos are) big. They're physical. They're quick. They have good shooters."
The Cougars closed out the end of the first half strong and took a nine-point lead, 41-32, into the locker room at halftime.
After struggling in the first half of wins over San Francisco and Pepperdine the last two games, BYU was looking for a solid start.
"The coaches talked about coming out strong and studying the game plan a little bit more and coming out and executing," Haws said. "That's what our guys did today."
But Santa Clara answered with a 12-4 run to open the second half — 10 of those points were scored by guard Kevin Foster — and actually seized the lead, 45-44, with 16:30 remaining in the game.
"We knew they were going to make a run," Haws said. "You can't get down or get flustered. You have to stay aggressive and keep doing what you do. We did that."
The score was tied at 50 when BYU broke the game open by scoring 18 unanswered points to go up 68-50 with six-and-a-half minutes left. During that stretch, the Cougars held the Broncos scoreless for about seven minutes.
"Coach called us in and said, 'Hey, this is a fight. They're going to punch us and we've got to punch back. We banded together and we guarded them well in the second half," Winder said of the 18-0 run. "(Rose) told us, 'If we don't get a stop, and battle back with them, and be physical with them, they're going to put us away.' We couldn't let that happen. We needed this win badly, especially on the road."
BYU was playing zone defense before Foster, who finished with a team-high 22 points, started to get hot.
"He got going a little bit and we switched to man," Haws explained. "We were just trying to make it tough on him. Foster's a great player."
During that 18-0 spurt, Rose said his players "got really confident in our ability to execute in the half court offensively. We took advantage of opportunities. Our guys got a lot of confidence in the way we were playing defense."
BYU next hosts Saint Mary's on Wednesday (9 p.m.).
NOTES: In the first half, Foster broke the WCC's all-time 3-point record. He surpassed Loyola Marymount's Jeff Fryer, who had 363 career 3-pointers. Santa Clara forward Marc Trasolini recorded a double-double with 17 points and 14 rebounds. Bronco guard Raymond Cowels scored 14 points, including four 3-pointers. Davies had seven turnovers. As a team, BYU had 12 steals. ... The Cougars outscored the Broncos 41-32 in the first half, and an identical 41-32 in the second half.
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