We did a good job. It’s all about defense. In the first half, I thought we had an okay mentality. But in the second half our mentality on both ends of the floor was really good. —BYU guard TJ Haws
PROVO — No doubt, BYU fans enjoy watching Yoeli Childs dunk and Elijah Bryant bury 3-pointers.
But if you ask the Cougars, when they’re playing their best, they’re playing good defense.
After a relatively close first half, BYU pulled away from Pepperdine with an impressive defensive performance in the second half that resulted in a 83-63 victory Thursday night before a crowd of 13,223 at the Marriott Center.
Bryant poured in a game-high 25 points and hit 5 of 8 3-pointers while Childs scored 21 points, pulled down 12 rebounds and dished out six assists.
But Childs knows why his team was able to rebound from last Saturday’s disappointing 67-66 loss at Pacific and tame the Waves.
“Defense, as always. I say that every time but it’s defense," he said. "In the first half we had one kill (three defensive stops in a row). In the second half we had four or maybe five. Our defense leads to our offense and when we guard, things go well. In the first half, we were shooting the ball pretty well but a lot of times that doesn’t last for the full 40 minutes.”
With the win, BYU improved to 14-4 overall and 3-2 in the West Coast Conference while the Waves fell to 3-14 and 0-5.
Pepperdine shot 56 percent (14 of 25) in the first half but managed to shoot just 40 percent (10 of 25) over the final 20 minutes.
“We did a good job. It’s all about defense. In the first half, I thought we had an okay mentality,” said guard TJ Haws, who scored in double figures (10 points) for the first time in WCC play this season. “But in the second half our mentality on both ends of the floor was really good. In league, it’s all about making adjustments and I thought we did a good job tonight.
“A huge thing for us is having a chip on our shoulders,” Haws added. “When we come out and we’re aggressive on defense and we’re talking and helping each other and defending as a team, I think we’re really good. This year, we’ve shown that when we defend together, we can beat anyone. It’s all about our mindset.”
BYU shot a blistering 58 percent from the field — 61 percent in the first half and 56 percent in the second half. Bryant was 8 of 12 and Childs was 8 of 11.
From an offensive standpoint, it’s all about taking high percentage shots.
“We’ve kind of drilled into having a better half-court offensive team. That comes with high-percentage shots,” Childs said. “We want to get layups, we want to get dunks and we want to get open 3-pointers. We have guys that can make tough shots but we’re definitely trying to get a high-percentage shot and use as much of the shot clock as we need to get that shot.”
BYU outscored Pepperdine in the paint 32-28 and outscored the Waves 22-8 off turnovers.
Cougar coach Dave Rose also liked his team’s mindset.
“It was a good bounce-back win for our guys,” he said. “I thought the first half (Pepperdine) had us spread out pretty good. We made some nice adjustments at halftime and we were much more aggressive offensively in the second half. It’s a good win for our guys.”
Rose was pleased to see other players besides Childs and Bryant make contributions. Besides Haws’ 10 points, Zac Seljaas, who started in place of Luke Worthington, had eight points and McKay Cannon also chipped in eight, including a pair of 3-pointers.
“The key for us is that we’re a decent defensive team. We’re getting better. We can be a really good defensive team,” Rose said. “But we’ve been having a really hard time scoring. The key in this game was we got help from three or four different guys. That’s probably the difference tonight.”
As for his team’s second-half effort, Rose said, “We did a better job of closing to the shooter and then staying in front of them on the dribble. That’s going to be a challenge for us every night with every team we play.”
In the early going, Pepperdine led BYU, 9-8, but that would be the Waves’ final lead of the night.
During one stretch, Bryant scored seven straight points for the Cougars and then Childs scored eight consecutive points, including three emphatic dunks.
Pepperdine freshman Colbey Ross scored 12 points over the first 20 minutes. He finished with a team-high 16 points.
At halftime, BYU led 40-34 before opening the second half with a 24-6 run that featured two Bryant 3-pointers and one by Seljaas.
The Cougars led by as many as 25 points, 72-47, with eight minutes remaining.
BYU visits Santa Clara Saturday night.