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Lance Iversen, AP
San Francisco's Cody Doolin (45) scores in front of BYU's Josh Sharp in the first half of their NCAA college basketball game at War Memorial Gym in San Francisco on Saturday, Jan. 5, 2013. (AP Photo/San Francisco Chronicle, Lance Iversen)
We found a lot of different ways to win. A lot of different guys (stepped up). —BYU coach Dave Rose

SAN FRANCISCO — On a night that saw BYU's Brandon Davies sidelined for long stretches due to foul trouble, on a night that saw San Francisco hit 11 3-pointers and grab a double-digit lead, and on a night that saw Tyler Haws inexplicably miss three consecutive free throws, the Cougars somehow still managed to emerge victorious Saturday at War Memorial Gymnasium.

BYU rallied from a 14-point deficit to earn a scrappy 80-76 win over the Dons in its first West Coast Conference road game of the season.

The Cougars improved to 12-4 overall and 2-0 in WCC play while San Francisco fell to 7-8 and 0-2.

"Gosh, it was a battle right to the end," Haws said. "It's one of those games where you have to stay in it mentally for 40 minutes. I was really proud of every one of our guys."

"It was kind of scary," guard Matt Carlino said. "We were fortunate to come out with the win."

USF guard Cody Doolin drove to the hoop with less than 10 seconds to go with a chance to send the game into overtime, but his layup rimmed out.

The Cougars rebounded the ball, then Carlino buried a pair of free throws with 2.7 seconds remaining to seal the victory.

Davies fouled out with 4:22 left in the game and BYU trailing by one point, 71-70. He scored a season-low six points in 17 minutes of play.

Picking up the scoring slack was Haws (22 points), Carlino (22), and Brock Zylstra (16).

"We stayed aggressive (without Davies)," Haws said. "In the first half, we were kind of relaxed. I don't know that we were ready to play. But we came out attacking them in the second half."

But it was never easy for the Cougars. They took their first lead of the second half with 6:15 remaining on a Carlino bucket, then extended their advantage to six on a 3-pointer by Craig Cusick at the 1:45 mark.

"That was huge. That was awesome," Haws said of Cusick's long-range shot. "It was a big lift for our team."

"We found a lot of different ways to win," coach Dave Rose said. "A lot of different guys (stepped up)."

In the final minute, though, BYU uncharacteristically missed three free throws, including the front end of a one-and-one by Haws with 24.3 seconds left, as the Cougars nursed a 77-76 lead.

Haws, who is one of the nation's top free-throw shooters — hitting well over 90 percent on the season — missed his final three free throws of the night.

"I don't know," Haws said when asked about those misses. "They hit about every part of the rim, and sometimes that's the way the cookie crumbles. I'm just happy we won the game."

While BYU's football team made its mark with defense this season, 'D' was in short supply for the Cougar basketball squad in the first half.

Not even Bronson Kaufusi, a BYU defensive lineman, could help during his brief stint on the floor in the first half with Davies out of the game.

San Francisco's 'D' combo of Doolin and Cole Dickerson torched the Cougars for much of the contest. Doolin and Dickerson each scored 22 points, and they each hit 8-of-13 shots from the floor.

"We've got to get better (defensively)," Haws said. "They're a really good 3-point shooting team."

BYU led only twice — briefly — in the first half as San Francisco knocked down 9-of-13 3-pointers in the early going. The Dons shot 61.5 percent over the first 20 minutes of the game as the Cougar defense allowed plenty of open shots.

"We were a step slow attacking their ball screens," Rose explained.

What made matters worse for BYU was that Davies played only nine minutes in the first half. Davies picked up three fouls, relegating him to the bench, and Haws struggled from the floor, hitting just 2-of-9 shots. Meanwhile, Zylstra came up big for the Cougars, nailing all four of his attempts from the floor, including 3-of-3 from 3-point range for a team-high 11 points at the break.

San Francisco had six different players hit 3-pointers, including three by Chris Adams and two by Doolin.

At intermission, the Dons led, 46-37. But in the second half, the Cougars kept their composure and cut into the Dons' lead. But USF made only 2-of-11 3-point attempts in the second half.

BYU trailed, 69-62, with 8:30 remaining when the Cougars went on a 15-2 run, capped by Cusick's 3-pointer.

BYU outrebounded USF in the second half, 23-17. The Cougars outscored the Dons over the final 20 minutes, 43-30.

"We won the game with our rebounding," Carlino said. "We hit the boards pretty hard."

The Cougars had 12 second-chance points, compared to three for the Dons.

BYU returns home Thursday when it hosts Pepperdine.

NOTES: Announced attendance was 2,123. … Kaufusi came in for Davies in the first half and scored two points in four minutes of play. … BYU shot 49.2 percent while USF shot 50 percent. … The Cougars made just 11-of-20 free-throw attempts.

EMAIL: jeffc@desnews.com