PROVO — BYU jumped out early on the University of San Diego and then cruised to an easy 88-52 West Coast Conference win on Saturday afternoon.
BYU was led by its front-court duo of Noah Hartsock, who sparked the Cougars' strong start, and Brandon Davies, who finished off the Toreros to give BYU (12-4, 1-1 WCC) the school's first-ever win in its new conference.
Davies has struggled with consistency for much of the season, but has seemingly found his stride, opening WCC play with two straight stellar performances. He ended the afternoon with 21 points, but more impressively recorded 22 rebounds, dominating play on both ends of the court.
His performance followed up an outstanding performance against St. Mary's where he scored 28 points and had seven rebounds.
"The last two games his aggression level has been really consistent," said BYU coach Dave Rose. "That's a real step forward for him and for us."
The Cougars stepped up their defensive pressure, tightening up their rotations while contesting most of San Diego's jump-shot attempts. They held the Toreros to just 23 percent shooting from the field.
The Toreros did score the first basket of the game before Hartsock ripped off eight straight points. Following a thunderous dunk by Davies, San Diego called timeout to regroup, down 10-2 with 16:24 remaining in the first half.
San Diego didn't score its next points until the 11:56 mark to move to within nine at 13-4. The Toreros' next field goal didn't come until the 9:07 mark, however, to make the score 18-7, sparking a 10-2 run that slashed their deficit to 20-15 with just over seven minutes remaining. The Cougars ended the half up by a 34-24 margin.
"I thought from the very beginning of the game that we were out on them defensively," said Rose. "We did a good job challenging their shooters and contested shots at the rim pretty well."
The second half of play started much like the first half, with BYU jumping out with an 11-2 run, forcing San Diego into taking a timeout with 16:41 left in the half down 45-26. Unlike the first half, though, the Cougars didn't let up, going on to win by 36 points.
It was during the second half where Davies really began to dominate play on the offensive end, scoring 15 of his 21 points in limited minutes.
"Part of the gameplan was dominating the boards and scoring easy points from the inside-out," said Davies. "I was just doing my best to execute the gameplan. I have great teammates that were giving me the ball giving me easy looks, and I just did my part defensively. I was just fortunate to come away with those numbers."
About the only problem the Cougars incurred during the second half was Hartsock's never-ending nosebleed, which led to only scant minutes played by the team's leading scorer. Freshman Nate Austin filled in admirably for Hartsock, finishing the game with nine points and a 3-point basket.
Although Matt Carlino started the game, Rose elected to go with backup Craig Cusick at the point starting out the second half after Carlino picked up his third foul. Carlino didn't see action in the second half until the 12:45 mark, finishing with eight points, six rebounds and three assists in 20 minutes of play.
With the win, the Cougars improve to 12-4 on the year and 1-1 in conference play. Their next game will be at Loyola Marymount on Thursday Jan. 5.