We knew they would go on a run, and I thought we did a great job of keeping our poise and weathering the storm and we pulled away a little bit. —BYU guard TJ Haws
PROVO — On a night when leading scorers Elijah Bryant and Yoeli Childs weren’t turning in their usual prolific production, TJ Haws and Jahshire Hardnett came to the rescue for BYU.
Haws tied his season-high with 24 points, and Hardnett scored a career-high 17 points in the Cougars’ 74-58 victory over San Diego Saturday night at the Marriott Center in front of a crowd of 13,449.
When the Toreros took a 38-37 lead in the second half, Haws drilled a 3-pointer to give BYU a lead it would not relinquish. In fact, from that point on, the Cougars outscored USD 31-15 over the final 11 minutes.
“There came a time in that second half where I felt like they had us on our heels, and we were able to flip that and be more on attack,” said BYU coach Dave Rose.
“We talked about it at the start of the game. We knew both teams would go on runs,” Haws said. “We knew they would go on a run, and I thought we did a great job of keeping our poise and weathering the storm and we pulled away a little bit.”
Haws, who has rediscovered his shooting groove in recent games, was a crucial part of BYU taking control of the game late.
With 3:53 remaining, Haws’ crossover 3-pointer propelled BYU to its largest lead at that point, 64-54.
“I tried to get to the basket a little bit and get some shots around the hoop,” Haws said. “That really helped me get into my rhythm. I tried to stay confident. I missed a few threes early in the first, and I tried to keep shooting.”
Moments later, Hardnett drove to the basket and scored a layup and drew a foul. His traditional 3-point play put the Cougars up by 13 points, 67-54.
“The crowd did a great job of getting us pumped up, and those two plays did it for us,” Hardnett said.
And, for good measure, Hardnett scored the final points of the game on a 3-pointer with eight seconds remaining.
Hardnett made 5 of 8 shots from the field and recorded a career-high eight rebounds. “I just felt like the ball kept coming into my hands,” he explained.
Haws was 10 of 14 from the field and 4 of 8 from 3-point range. He also tied his career-high of four steals.
“Offensively, they were tremendous. Defensively, TJ made a lot of plays in the gap as far as getting the ball knocked away,” Rose said. “Our 12 steals were a result of being really active. Jahshire was really aggressive offensively. He used his quickness and strength to finish plays. It was good to see TJ out there offensively feeling really confident.”
With the win, BYU claimed its fourth consecutive victory and improved to 17-4 overall and 6-2 in the West Coast Conference. USD dropped to 13-7 and 4-4.
Bryant and Childs, who have scored so consistently this season for the Cougars, struggled against one of the nation’s top defensive teams.
Bryant was 4 of 14 from the floor and 1 of 7 from the 3-point line and finished with 13 points. Childs was 5 of 13 and had 14 points.
Because his shot wasn’t falling with regularity, Bryant, a team captain, instructed Hardnett it was his turn to make an impact on the offensive end.
“Eli told me to score the ball. He said he was struggling and I told him to keep shooting,” Hardnett said. “He said to me personally it was my time to step up and score the ball.”
Entering the game, the Toreros ranked No. 21 nationally in scoring defense, allowing 63.9 points per game; No. 8 in field goal percentage defense, allowing 38.2 percent per game; and No. 2 in 3-point percentage defense, allowing 26.3 percent shooting from 3-point range.
BYU ended up hitting 7 of 20 3-pointers (35 percent), including 5 of 10 in the second half.
“I told our guys I thought the 3-point line would be the difference in the game,” Rose said. “If it was even, we’d have a chance to win.”
USD hit 7 of 19 3-pointers. The Toreros were led by Olin Carter III’s 14 points while Isaiah Wright had 13 and Isaiah Pineiro added 12.
Haws said that San Diego deserves its reputation as being a strong defensive team.
“You can tell that they’re a fundamentally sound defensive team. I feel like if we do what we do offensively and run our stuff and take what the defense gives us, we’re really good offensively. It’s just a matter of making the right play and we’ll get open looks,” he said. “Early in the game, they were taking us out of what we do. Eventually we figured out that they were overplaying us and we took what they gave us and we got open looks. As the game went on, we got better and better.”
BYU visits Saint Mary’s Thursday.