BYU forward Steve Schreiner wasn't sure how he'd done it.
He'd just scored a career-high 37 points against Hawaii, and when asked what happened, he said:"I really don't know."
Listen up, Steve. It was like this: You terrorized a procession of Rainbow defenders in the low post, hitting 16 of 21 shots while leading BYU to an 82-74 win in the Marriott Center.
You scored on baseline spin moves, turnaround jumpers and follow shots. You grabbed nine rebounds, and you outmuscled everybody Hawaii threw at you.
Get the picture?
Schreiner did acknowledge that he was more pumped-up than usual for this game because the Rainbows have beaten him so often. "I have a losing record against Hawaii," he said. "This could be the last time I play them, and I wanted to pull it out."
Schreiner also pointed out that his performance during a BYU loss in Hawaii may have lulled the 'Bows. "I didn't have the greatest game over there, so maybe they looked past me a little bit."
Maybe. What seems more likely is that a very physical player just felt comfortable in a game that was very physical. There were 49 fouls called here Saturday night, 33 in the second half. BYU center Shawn Bradley put an eight-stitch cut over one Hawaii player's eye, and broke the nose of another. And Bradley must have been close to double-digits in times hitting the floor, and we're not talking about diving for loose balls here.
"It wasn't dirty basketball," said Hawaii coach Riley Wallace. "It was a good solid basketball game."
Wallace didn't criticize Bradley for the elbows that injured two of his players.
"The last time we played BYU we were able to push him out of the game," Wallace said. "Bradley's growing up; he's fighting back."
Wallace noted that Bradley isn't the only one who has come a long way in the past month. "BYU obviously has improved a lot since the last time we played," he said.
BYU coach Roger Reid wasn't sure this game was evidence of that improvement.
"I don't think we played very well," Reid said. "If we'd hit free throws, it might have been a 15-point ballgame."
The Cougars did make things a lot more interesting than they needed to be down the stretch. Over an eight-minute period starting with two missed free throws by Gary Trost, BYU kept Hawaii in the game by making just six of 15 foul shots.
To their credit, though, the Cougars were playing good defense and picking the boards clean while having their free-throw difficulties. BYU allowed only three Hawaii field goals in the last nine minutes as they slowly pulled away from a 57-57 tie.
BYU, perhaps guilty of looking ahead to crucialWAC matchups against New Mexico and Utah this week, was a little flat at the start of this contest. The Cougs were missing layups and getting beat to every loose ball, but their big men were keeping them in it. Schreiner and Bradley combined for 22 of BYU's first 27 points; Bradley had 12 while exploiting gaping holes in a loose Hawaii zone. But the signs of trouble were there, even as BYU led by five at halftime. For one thing, the Cougs had been outrebounded 17-14 by a much smaller team.
"I put two things on the board before the game started and we were getting beat on both of them at the half," Reid said. "They were outshooting us and outrebounding us."
BYU's shooting and rebounding efforts improved in the second half, as they outshot the 'Bows 57.1 percent to 37.5 percent and outboarded them 22-16.
The real story of the second half, however, was all the fouls. After a double foul on Schreiner and Hawaii's Tim Shepherd just before halftime, the refs seemed to come out for the second half with the intention of making this game less physical. They called a combined 11 fouls in the first five minutes of the half, finally causing Wallace to start waving a white hanky in mock surrender.
Still, BYU had a hard time putting the 'Bows away. At the 14-minute mark BYU's Mark Heslop hit a three-pointer for a nine-point lead that looked like the beginning of the end, but on the same play Bradley popped Phil Lott with an inadvertant elbow - and the incensed 'Bows responded by running off nine straight points to tie it.
Bradley was the only Cougar besides Schreiner in double figures, with 18 points and 11 rebounds. Guard Nathan Call and forward Kenneth Roberts had seven assists each.
For the Rainbows, Chris Walz had 22, Lott 18 and Ray Reed 11.
BYU's victory, coupled with Wyoming's loss to New Mexico, leaves the Cougars 9-3 (15-10 overall) and alone in second place in the WAC with four games left to play.
Hawaii falls to 11-11, 3-8 in the WAC.