PROVO — After a dismal start, BYU battled back from a 14-point first-half deficit and ran away from St. Mary’s, 84-71, before a crowd of 17,982 at the Marriott Center Saturday night.
It marked the Cougars' first-ever victory over the Gaels in West Coast Conference play, snapping a four-game losing streak to St. Mary’s.
"It feels really good to finally beat these guys," said guard Tyler Haws, who scored a game-high 33 points, including 22 in the second half. "I'm really proud of the way our guys competed on both ends of the floor. We had that slow start, and we've had a few games this year where we've had slow starts and haven't been able to fix it. I'm just really proud how we competed and fought back in it and figured it out."
While Kyle Collinsworth kept BYU in the game in the first half — the Cougars trailed 28-14 at the midway point of the half — Haws helped put away the Gaels in the second half.
“Kyle’s first 10 minutes of the game, he saved us," coach Dave Rose said of Collinsworth, who ended up with 20 points and nine rebounds.
St. Mary's star Brad Waldow scored a team-high 25. Stephen Holt added 16 and James Walker III chipped in 11.
The Cougars outshot St. Mary’s and dominated the boards over the final 30 minutes of the game. BYU shot 56 percent in the second half, compared to 36 percent for the Gaels.
“Our guys were really good the last 30 minutes of this game as far as responding to the physical nature of the game, and consistently making plays and executing our game plan," Rose said.
With the win, BYU improved to 15-9 overall, 7-4 in WCC play, while St. Mary’s fell to 16-7 and 6-4.
The Cougars also climbed from fourth place in the WCC standings into a tie for second place with San Francisco.
BYU broke open a tight game midway through the second half.
The Cougars and Gaels went back-and-forth over the first four minutes of the second half. A 3-pointer by Haws gave the Cougars a 46-44 lead, then BYU stretched that to five, 52-47, on a drive by Matt Carlino.
With 12:09 left in the game, Waldow was whistled for traveling while he and Eric Mika battled for a loose ball. After the call, Waldow threw his mouthpiece against the auxiliary scoreboard in disgust, and he was called for a technical foul. It was Waldow’s fourth personal foul.
Haws buried both technical free throws to put the Cougars up, 54-47. Then on its ensuing possession, BYU built a nine-point lead, 56-47, on Mika’s first field goal of the night.
That advantage ballooned to 14 — 66-52 — after a layup by Haws, marking a 28-point swing since falling behind by 14 in the first half.
In the final minute of what was a physical game, St. Mary's Garrett Jackson was ejected for hitting Mika with his forearm.
"The game was pretty much what we anticipated coming in, that it would be a physical game," Rose said.
In the early going, it appeared that St. Mary’s might run away with this one.
The Gaels sprinted to a 14-4 advantage five minutes into the game as BYU had four turnovers in its first five possessions in the first two minutes.
The Cougars didn’t hit their first field goal until the game was nearly four minutes old.
The trio of Waldow, Holt and Walker propelled St. Mary’s to a 28-14 lead at the 8:30 mark of the first half. Waldow seemed to have his way with the Cougars inside.
Meanwhile, Haws still hadn’t made a single field goal, having missed his first attempt from the floor.
Walker, the former Utah State guard, did an outstanding job on Haws, the WCC’s leading scorer, early on. Haws had scored 109 points in his previous three games.
“All of us were in a weird spot those first eight or nine minutes," Haws said. "Things weren’t going our way. But we stayed aggressive and kept shooting good shots. We were making good plays.”
BYU clawed back into the contest as Haws scored his first field goal, which was followed by a 3-pointer by Anson Winder. Haws and Collinsworth helped spur a big 23-7 run that saw the Cougars take their first lead, 37-35, on a Collinsworth field goal with 50 seconds before halftime.
A field goal and free throw by Waldow with 29 seconds remaining gave St. Mary’s a narrow 38-37 halftime edge.
At the break, the Gaels held a 22-17 rebounding advantage.
Mika and Nate Austin picked up two personal fouls in the first half, giving seldom-used freshman Luke Worthington a chance to play six first-half minutes. Worthington, who did a solid job inside for the Cougars, fouled out with 8:36 left in the game.
BYU hosts Santa Clara on Thursday (9 p.m. MST, ESPNU).
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