JUST WHEN it appeared BYU hasketball was abour to fall into the abyss of an 0-3 WAC start this past Thursday night in the Marriott Center, Marty Haws, the Cougars' deceptively quick point guard, found himself in a situation deceptively quick point guards rock themselves to sleep dreaming about.

There was Haws on the right wing, the recipient of a perfectly thrown outlet pass, leading the front end of a fastbreak.He had San Diego State guard Michael Best in front of him. But he had an advantage over Best. He was going forward, Best was going backward.

He had another advantage over Best. He knew what he was going to do in the next few split seconds.

Best didn't.

Haws dribbled a few times as he passed in front of the student section, faked to his right, did a little behind the back dribble as he cut to his left, caught the ball as he was going up, and softly laid the ball off the glass and into the net.

BYU closed within one point of the Aztecs with that shot, 61-60, and seconds later, when Haws was fouled and hit both free throws, the Cougars had regained the lead at 62-61 - even though they had been down by 13 at the half.

Halftime had been Haws' least favorite part of the game. He had scored 12 points in the opening half - almost as many points as his 13.9 whole-game average. But the coaches didn't pay nearly as much attention to his points as they did to the fact he wasn't staying back on defense.

"They said I was giving up 3-pointers and not getting things going for us defensively," said Haws. "They sorta got after me."

So he got after the Aztecs in the second half, and that helped open up the fastbreak lanes, which was good for the team and even better for Haws. Flying down the wing on the break is where he'd prefer, above all else, to be.

"That's my favorite part of the game," he said. "Running the open floor, where I can utilize my skills."

Haws has a lot of different speeds he can shift into - even thought he doesn't exactly look the part of a speed merchant.

For one thing, at 6-foot-2 and 165 pounds, he isn't particularly intimidating with his size.

For another thing, he's a white guy.

Best, the San Diego State guard, was asked after Thursday's game if Haws surprised him, being so quick despite the fact that he's, well, you know, sort of pale.

He smiled.

"Yeah," he said. "You could say that. He is very quick. Quicker than you'd think. He's a lot quicker than Larry Bird.

"And I'm afraid next year he's even going to be quicker."

That could well be. Haws also runs on the BYU track team in the spring, where he has a best of 10.49 in the 100 meters. He was a member of last year's WAC-winning 4 X 100 relay team.

There are a lot of people who think Haws, who was an All-State football player in high school, should be playing on BYU's football team as well. Gil Brandt, the talent scout for the Dallas Cowboys, is one of them. Brandt said this past fall that it was possible that the best football player at BYU was playing basketball. Meaning Haws.

"Yeah, I heard about that," said Haws. "That was flattering to hear."

But for now, basketball is his chief concern.

The loss of ace shooting guard Andy Toolson - out with a broken left hand - hasn't lessened Haws's load any.

"I knew I had to come through when Toolson was here," he said. "But now I know I have to come through even more.

"The whole team has to. Making up 17 points a game and eight rebounds a game isn't easy."

In the San Diego State win - BYU's first in the WAC after opening with road losses at UTEP and New Mexico - Haws did his share. His 19 points were five above his season average, and his five rebounds were nearly double his season-long average of 2.6 per game.

He also displayed, in that win, a knack for making big baskets. There was the aforementioned fastbreak layup over Best. Then there were the two free throws that gave BYU back the lead. And then, with 4:10 remaining and the score tied at 73-73, Haws found himself rambling down the right wing again, with Best again in front of him.

He drove hard to the hoop and then, at the last second, flipped a bounce pass to Mike Herring, who was filling the left lane and who easily banked in a layup that gave BYU a lead it would never relinquish.

"Can't lose on your home floor," said Haws, already preparing for the next assault, which comes in the form of Hawaii tonight in the Marriott Center. "Not if you want to stay in the race."

And speaking for himself, there's nowhere he'd rather be.