That was fun. Anytime you come to Logan, you know it's going to be a dogfight and that's what it was. —McKay Cannon
LOGAN — Facing a hostile crowd at The Spectrum Saturday night, BYU relied on its defense and its two most experienced players against Utah State.
The Cougars overcame a poor offensive showing early on and rallied from an eight-point first-half deficit to record a 75-66 victory over the Aggies before a crowd of 10,206.
For BYU (6-2), it marked its sixth consecutive win over Utah State (4-5).
Cougar guards Elijah Bryant, who scored 14 of his 15 points in the second half, and McKay Cannon, who came off the bench to pour in 17 points, drew upon their experience of playing in raucous environments.
“That was fun. Anytime you come to Logan, you know it’s going to be a dogfight, and that’s what it was,” said Cannon, who played here last year for Weber State. “The crowd was energetic. It was a good team win.”
Forward Yoeli Childs scored 17 points and pulled down eight rebounds.
Cannon seemed to settle down his teammates, particularly in the first half when BYU trailed.
“He’s also been in the (NCAA) Tournament, so he’s played in some big games,” Bryant said of Cannon. “With his experience, it allows a lot of us to be calm on the floor and to be confident in our abilities as well.”
“At the beginning of the game, I was able to see that on the bench, that we were a little antsy, especially going into the post,” Cannon said. “I tried to play my game and lead by example. I’ve been here before. I was here last year. I’m kind of used to this environment. I just played my role and the guys followed. It was good.”
The Cougars made only three of their first 17 shots from the field and fell behind 15-7. BYU finished the first half 0 of 10 from 3-point range but still led by four at halftime, thanks to its defensive effort.
Then less than 30 seconds into the second half, Bryant, who missed much of the first half due to foul trouble, buried a 3-pointer that gave the Cougars a seven-point lead.
“It was huge. That calmed us down,” Cannon said of Bryant’s three. “It was kind of a broken play. It was at the end of the shot clock. That was a big shot.”
“It's crazy. You’ve got to hit that first one and then everyone can breathe,” said coach Dave Rose. “Then we made 5 of 8 (3-pointers) in the second half. When a guy can make the first one, it gives confidence to everybody else.”
After that shot by Bryant, USU went on a 9-0 run to retake the lead. Then the two teams battled back and forth until the final 12 minutes as the Cougars hit timely shots.
A 3-pointer by TJ Haws with 7:39 remaining gave BYU a 53-47 advantage and another Bryant 3-pointer put the Cougars up by 10 points, 62-52, with 3:24 remaining.
Over the final minute, BYU nailed 9 of 10 free throws. The Aggies, by contrast, made only 10 of 23 from the charity stripe on the night.
Cannon was nearly perfect from the floor, going 4 of 5 from the field, 4 of 4 from the free-throw line and 1 of 1 from 3-point territory. He also added three rebounds and two assists while helping guard USU star Koby McEwen, who finished with a game-high 20 points.
“McKay fills the role for Nick (Emery) not being here. But I think he’s had a big job to fill because he’s been on the (practice) team the whole year,” Bryant said. “Then to find out he’s eligible and then be able to play, kudos to him for being able to do that.”
BYU’s defense prevented the score from getting out of hand in the first half.
“This is my first year at BYU but the stereotypical (view) of BYU is that they just play offense,” Cannon said. “But if you want to be champions, you’ve got to play defense. We’re trying to build that championship DNA.”
Rose was pleased with his team’s defensive play.
“We had a hard time making shots (in the first half). We made some adjustments and got a little more aggressive. We weren’t scoring offensively, but we kept guarding,” he said. “That really stands out to me. These guys are committed to that end of the floor. In the second half, it was way more of a normal game that you’d expect, with both teams going at each other back and forth.”
BYU hosts Illinois State Wednesday night.