PROVO — San Francisco hung with BYU most of the game Thursday night at the Marriott Center, but the Dons could not overcome the Cougars’ inside-out, one-two punch.
Forward Eric Mika scored 23 of his career-high 31 points in the second half and guard Nick Emery had 18 of his 22 points in the first half as the Cougars downed the Dons 85-75 in coach Dave Rose’s 400th game as BYU’s head coach.
Mika and Emery combined to shoot 19 of 27 from the field. While Mika reached his career high on a dunk in transition with 20 seconds remaining — and added 12 rebounds — Emery knocked down 4 of 6 3-point attempts.
“I was able to finish It’s something I’ve been working on,” Mika said. “My guys were just finding me in the post, on cuts, over the top. They were finding me in transition — everything. I attribute it to them and our unselfish offense tonight. Nick did a good job being aggressive in the first half. They switched things up a little bit to cover them a little more (in the second half). I was open a lot more. And the guys found me.”
For whatever reason, Emery always lights it up against San Francisco. Last season, he scored 21 points at home against the Dons and then at USF he poured in a career-high 37, including 10 of 12 from 3-point territory.
In three games now against the Dons, Emery has hit 26 of 40 shots from the field, 17 of 24 from 3-point range and a total of 80 points.
“It was a good night, just like last year,” said the sophomore guard. “San Francisco’s defense kind of let off me in the first half. I got open shots and I was able to knock them down. I attribute that to my bigs and my guards for getting me the ball at the right time.”
Rose was a little perplexed as to why Emery has enjoyed so much success against USF, considering this year’s team under first-year coach Kyle Smith is so different from what former coach Rex Walters ran last season.
“Rex was a guy who ran a lot of different defenses and tried to speed you up. These guys were pretty consistent in their half-court man-to-man,” Rose said. “(Emery’s) had three pretty good games against San Francisco. I think the first two were against one type of defense and this one tonight was totally different.”
Rose said sometimes players just have good games against certain teams or at certain venues.
With four 3-pointers, Emery now has 143 for his career, surpassing Andy Toolson for 10th all-time at BYU. And Emery has hit a 3-pointer in 27 straight games, the second-longest streak in BYU history — one game behind Jimmer Fredette's record of 28.
As a team, BYU shot 65 percent (15 of 23) in the second half and 56 percent for the game. Meanwhile, USF drilled eight 3-pointers, but it also missed 25 and ended up shooting 24 percent from distance.
Despite the Dons’ struggles scoring from beyond the arc, they kept it relatively close throughout with scrappy play. San Francisco grabbed 14 offensive rebounds and forced 13 BYU turnovers.
The Cougars’ largest lead was 14 points with 52 seconds remaining.
“It comes down to hustling on a couple of plays,” Mika said. “We get up and I’ve noticed we do this in more than one game, more in this game, that’s for sure, where we get a comfortable lead of 10 or 12 and then instead of stepping on the gas pedal and pushing it to 20 or 25, we kind of relax and go through the motions maybe a little too much. San Francisco isn’t going to give up, especially after playing some tough games in the WCC. I think it was just a little bit of a mental lapse. We got a little bit too comfortable with that lead.”
BYU led by as many as 12 in the first half. Mika scored the Cougars’ first nine points of the second half.
The Cougars improved to 13-5 overall and 4-1 in the West Coast Conference while USF fell to 11-7 and 1-4.
BYU visits San Diego Saturday (8 p.m., MST, ROOT RM).
TIP-INS: Thursday’s attendance was 13,917 Guard Elijah Bryant chipped in 14 points off the bench for the Cougars Guard L.J. Rose injured his ankle in the first half but returned and played in the second half.