When they’re hitting on the same cylinder on the same night, I think we have a chance to beat most people. —Dave Rose
PROVO — If there’s any chance for BYU to contend for a West Coast Conference championship, it needs major contributions from multiple players.
That’s what propelled the Cougars in Saturday’s 74-58 win over San Diego.
BYU had four players score in double figures while others chipped in other ways.
The Cougars got stellar performances from TJ Haws, who tied a season-high with 24 points and drilled four 3-pointers; Jahshire Hardnett, who scored a career-high 17 points and a career-high eight rebounds; and Luke Worthington, who provided a strong defensive presence off the bench.
“It was a great team win,” said coach Dave Rose. “Everyone contributed.”
BYU (17-4, 6-2), which has now won four consecutive games, will need similar contributions when it visits league-leading Saint Mary’s (19-2, 8-0) Thursday night. The Gaels, who are undefeated in WCC play, held off Pacific last Saturday, 72-69.
When the Cougars lost in overtime to Saint Mary’s on Dec. 30, Haws was 3 of 10 from the field and 1 of 2 from 3-point range. Overall, Haws had been struggling with his shot until recently. But he’s made 10 of 18 3-pointers over the past three games.
Against USD, Haws was 10 of 14 from the field and 4 of 8 from distance.
“He always spends time at (shooting). But I think the past couple of weeks he’s made a real conscious effort to come in a little bit earlier and stay (at practice) a little longer,” Rose said. “He’s been doing this his whole life. Very seldom do guys lose it and it never comes back. It’s going to come back. It’s a matter of confidence. That’s the thing that I like the most — he’s playing with a whole different attitude and quickness. His first step is quicker. He makes a few of those runners, and teams are cautious about closing all the way to him. Then he has a little more space to get threes off at his pace.”
Haws acknowledged that he’s carrying himself with a different attitude.
“I’m trying to play with a lot of confidence,” Haws said. “When I miss one, I’m trying to not let that affect me. I’m just trying to keep shooting the ball and having confidence.”
Defensively, against a physical San Diego team, Worthington recorded two rebounds and two steals in 12 minutes of play.
“I thought a real turning point in the game in the second half was Luke coming in. (The Toreros) kind of had us on our heels,” Rose said. “We got a few stops here and there. But it wasn’t a real presence from us. Luke stood those guys up two or three times.”
Meanwhile, BYU’s two leading scorers, Elijah Bryant and Yoeli Childs, went 4 of 14 and 5 of 13, respectively, from the field. Bryant was 1 of 7 from 3-point territory. Childs finished with 14 points and Bryant had 13.
“Eli handled it really well. Sometimes when everybody needs you, you feel like you need to try harder,” Rose said. “(Haws and Hardnett) started to find their game and really help us. (Bryant) was fine to let their number be called — the excitement he had in the locker room and on the floor with the other guys. It’s a really good thing. It’s a really good thing to have a team with a lot of balance.”
Zac Seljaas had four points and five rebounds while Dalton Nixon, playing in his first game since Dec. 6 due to a foot injury, had seven solid minutes.
"He does so many good things that maybe don’t show up on a stat sheet,” Haws said of Nixon. “He gives 100 percent effort at all times and brings a good spark to us and a lot of energy.”
Going into Thursday’s big game at Saint Mary’s, Rose enjoyed the way his team played against San Diego.
“The most important thing was that for 40 minutes, it might have been our best job of staying connected on both ends of the floor,” Rose said. “(USD) made plays and scored, but we didn’t have any glaring defensive lapses. On the offensive end, we didn’t have guys going off on their own trying to create stuff for themselves. Eli and Jahshire and TJ and McKay (Cannon) are all pretty good offensive players. When they’re hitting on the same cylinder on the same night, I think we have a chance to beat most people.”