I’m proud of the guys. They responded well to the missed opportunity the other night. —BYU coach Dave Rose
PROVO — Two days after a disappointing loss at nationally ranked Saint Mary’s, BYU came back strong Saturday against Pacific.
Guard Elijah Bryant enjoyed his best game in a Cougar uniform as he came off the bench to score a season-high 17 points in BYU's 91-62 victory in front of a crowd of 13,677 at the Marriott Center.
Bryant was one of five Cougars who scored in double figures, along with Eric Mika (17 points, 10 rebounds), T.J. Haws (15), Yoeli Childs (14) and Nick Emery (12).
“I’m proud of the guys. They responded well to the missed opportunity the other night,” said coach Dave Rose. “I thought defensively we were pretty good to start the game. In the second half, I thought we were really good offensively.”
BYU hit 16 of 17 free throws in the first half and the Cougars led by 18 points at halftime. In the second half, BYU hit 10 of first 14 shots from the field and ended up shooting 58 percent over the final 20 minutes. As a team, the Cougars drilled 10 3-pointers.
Bryant, who returned to action last Thursday after not playing since Nov. 23 while managing an injury, hit 5 of 7 shots from the floor, nailed two 3-pointers and was 5 of 6 from the free throw line in just 20 minutes of playing time. While playing for Elon as a freshman, prior to transferring to BYU, Bryant scored a career-high of 32 points.
“My confidence is definitely coming back,” Bryant said. “The guys have been building my confidence up and it’s helped to see the ball go into the hoop.”
Rose believes Bryant is just scratching the surface of his potential.
“I still think he’s a ways a way. Tonight, he was pretty efficient. He’s a guy who’s extremely versatile,” Rose said. “He can score off the dribble. He’s a good 3-point shooter. He’s a good free throw shooter. He’s strong around the rim as far as finishing. We missed him but in the process a couple of other guys have developed pretty well for us. Hopefully, it will make us better. If he plays like this, it will make us stronger.”
“Elijah’s a big part of this team. We’re super-excited to have him back,” Haws said. “We’re excited that he’s feeling good. He’s showed that he can play extremely well tonight. We need that in this conference. We have big games ahead of us.”
BYU improved to 12-5 overall and 3-1 in the West Coast Conference while Pacific dropped to 7-10 and 1-3.
Rose was glad to see his team rebound from the 81-68 setback to Saint Mary’s last Thursday.
“When you get your guys from a missed opportunity and get them to play together as well as we played tonight, that’s a good sign,” Rose said. “A lot of times that happens and individual guys want to go to their individual places and their individual games and then you end up with another loss. The fact that they rallied around each other, shared the ball, defended well and rebounded well together as a group, I think we can build on that.”
Bryant scored in a variety of ways. His 3-pointer with 12:30 left in the first half gave the Cougars a 21-12 lead. His layup with 3:30 remaining put BYU up 40-25 and his 3-pointer with 36 seconds left in the half propelled the Cougars to their largest lead of the half, 47-29.
Back-to-back alley-oop dunks from Haws to Mika made the score 60-35 at the 16:30 mark of the second half. On one of those dunks, Mika put it down with his left hand.
Those slams were part of a 13-2 run that was capped by a jumper by Bryant. At that point, the Cougars led, 64-35.
And the gap would grow even more lopsided from there. With 6:39 left, BYU led by as many as 34 points.
The Cougars were more effective, and more efficient, offensively than they were at Saint Mary's.
“The pressure was different, the defensive scheme was different,” Rose said. “Tonight, we got off to a good start and then we had a lot of guys contribute. The other night, we hung with them and we had chances but we only had one guys offensively that really figured it out. Tonight, we had a lot of guys hit 3’s we didn’t make the other night.”
BYU hosts San Francisco Thursday (7 p.m., MST, BYUtv).